Mass Music

I used to sing in the choir at school (innocent little soprano) but stopped when school stopped. This year when i moved house i joined a community choir, Open Voice. Although swimming comes close, singing is my favourite pasttime in the whole world – its like swimming for the mind – i could go along in a really bad mood and know that an hour and a half later, my spirit will be lifted and i’ll be cycling home singing my heart out. We sing all kinds of songs from around the world (great way to learn other languages) and its been lovely to find new friends who live nearby. What i love about singing in a choir is that no one contribution is greater than another – the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. Quite a apart from the joy of singing together every week there is also the chance to sing gigs at festivals and occasionally the choir is approached to sing in art performances. The most recent performance is for poet and novelist, Jackie Kay’s ‘Manchester Lines‘ produced by the Library Theatre. When the Musical Director, Dom and producer, Josh turned up at our choir one week and played the song (i wasn’t taken by the song too much but by Dom’s verve for playing piano and singing all parts) the fact it was a Jackie Kay play sold it to me before even a note was played – i love her poems and her books.

The play is set in a lost property office and the set is situated in the empty floor of the First Street Office block which has fantastic views over Manchester. The hidden joy of being part of this whole thing was getting an insight into the writer’s world and seeing first hand what its like to see a mind’s work come to life – all the small attentions to detail in the set and the many people it gives creative work to.

Choirs from across the NW have been involved, each night turning up to sing a song with the company at the end of the show. We are described in one review as ‘...the surprise intervention (not to be spoiled by saying more) of the non-professional members of the company‘ and in another ‘There are moments when speech is simply not enough, and the characters break into songs composed by Errollyn Wallen. It’s the downbeat, low-key quality of the show that makes it so moving, as it traces the maps of the heart and lexicons of loss, not just of the characters, but – in a wonderful, final coup de theatre – of the audience, too. As you exit into a city of strangers, the show leaves you with a gentle reminder that while we are all lost, we are all connected in one way or another, too.’.

Its been an amazing thing to just turn up every Wednesday night for choir or every Friday night for Manchester Lines and sing. I found it a challenge initially to learn words but trying a number of different ways has been fun – with the Manchester Lines song we were sent a podcast of our part – my way to learn the words was to write them all down and then sign along to the podcast and then write them all out again. The way i learn songs in choir is simply by repetition – eventually it sticks in your mind and that feels like more fun than looking at the words – eventually you are corrected into what sounds right by the sound of everyone else. I love singing in and of itself but i harvest a secret ambition that singing is bringing me closer to playing a musical instrument again – preferably the piano. I look at people who play instruments as if they harness some secret knowledge about the universe… hidden from view yet holding a key to the universe. And just as the Higgs Boson discovery is a big deal to the universe, I have discovered that music is what gives my life mass.

The last performance is this Friday. Unfortunately (or fortunately?!) Manchester Lines is sold out.


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