In her regular column highlighting local projects, charities and services, Link4Growth volunteer Debra Oakaby visits a local community choir
Celebrity choirmaster Gareth Malone is someone I would like to meet one day, because he has taken group singing to a whole new level. Amateur music making is popular and it is estimated there are now 25,000 choirs in the UK.
At a recent Link4Growth meeting, Virginia Firnberg told us about her new community choir, Wave. She started this in April with Jo Clare, who has experience of being in two choirs for 18 years.
The choir rehearses on Wednesday evenings at Harmony Hall, Truro Road, Walthamstow. The repertoire is versatile, covering jazz, classical, folk, gospel and pop.
On the evening I visited, there were 13 people in the class. Virginia was at the front playing an electric piano to demonstrate musical scales. She also gave useful music-reading tips in a clear and easy-to-follow way, and her style is engaging and highly interactive.
Virginia is a composer with an impressive biography. Choir member Helen Porter told me she wanted to learn about music and take better control of her voice, and was impressed with Virginia’s knowledge and ability to get points across.
Within minutes of starting, everyone was doing some warm up exercises, marching to feel the beat of the music and clapping. They even tried out some cool wrist flicks, normally used by conductors, and clearly they were having fun.
According to a report by the charity Music In Our Bones: “Due to advances in neurological science, we now have a growing body of scientific evidence explaining what community singers have always known, that singing is good for us!”
Indeed, Marcia White, who enjoys singing with this choir, said: “Singing lifts the mood,” and compared it to how you would normally feel after going to the gym. She was surprised to hear that everybody could actually sing, because there were no auditions.
Forming two groups of high and low voices, the class practised an Irving Berlin song called Play a Simple Melody. The enunciation of certain lyrics had some people in fits of laughter. As we approached the break, both groups came together, singing in unison and harmony. Amazing.
During the break I spoke to Debbie Lafeuillee, who told me this was her first-ever choir practice. Having had some singing lessons, her tutor recommended that she should join a choir, where she could sing with other people, and in her words “didn’t want to annoy the neighbours”.
Virginia told me she planned to run a programme of classes, enabling people to build up their skills. She hoped the choir would give three performances a year at community-based events. Jo said: “It is a totally uplifting experience and we already sound fantastic!”
All adults who want to sing are welcome, no experience is necessary and the first session is free.
To get involved in Wave Community Choir:
Call 07813 116 505