Monday, September 1, 2008

Choirs, Then and Now


One of the pleasures of my youth was singing in a choir. As I have talked about before music was not a big part of my growing up, but I did sing in the choir at school, an all girls' school no less.

My voice was very good but not quite solo quality however a choir is the one place you can sing to your heart's content without feeling self conscious. I also sang as an alto and they are always in demand. For some years after I left school I belonged to a huge mixed voice choir, the Hurlstone Choral Society which performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra three or four times a year. One had to audition for this choir which made me very nervous since I could not read music very well at that time, although I learned properly later on when I played guitar. I managed to fluff my way through the audition which must have been very simple in retrospect and as I had the ability to reproduce something I only heard sung once, I learned the whole, phrase by phrase, and I really had no difficulty at all singing with the choir. They also had a small 32 voice choir which sang on the radio and I was a member of that for a while until my university studies became arduous and I dropped out of that one. It seems that the choir no longer exists as I could not find any recent references to it.

So what prompted this post was Welshcakes highlighting a Welsh choir singing Myfanwy. Well not that exactly, but rather one of her commenters Richard Havers talking about a competition on the BBC called Last Choir Standing which was won by a Welshmen's choir, surprise surprise. Last Choir Standing seems to be similar to American Idol, which I have never actually watched, except all the participants are choirs.

After I made my comment which included the fact that I can't get the BBC videos here (not available in your area!!!) on the internet and my rhetorical question, "I wonder if someone has posted that on YouTube, they usually do," I went searching. Well of course they have and I spent a very enjoyable morning following YouTube links not only to Only Men Aloud, the winners from Cardiff but other contestants too and let me tell you I would have had great difficulty making a choice between this one and the other Welsh finalist, Ysgol Glanaethwy, of Bangor, both incredible choirs in different ways. So which one would you choose?

Only Men Aloud singing All by Myself



Or Ysgol Glanaethwy singing All that Jazz



Lots more to enjoy on YouTube if you enjoy choral music as much as I do. I think things have changed a little since my days of singing in a choir. I don't think one would get away without reading music nowadays and it is probably true that every single person in these choirs would be excellent soloists. But there is something very special about singing with a group of others and one that I look back on with great fondness.

*The image above is the Vancouver Bach Choir with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.


9 comments:

Dr.John said...

They are so different how would you choose between them. They both do a great job.

Richard Havers said...

It certainly was a great programme. As Dr John says, how to choose? For me the performance of the entire series was Ysgol Glanaethwy singing O Fortuna from Carmina Burana

http://tinyurl.com/5pabxb

Dragonstar said...

Very different choirs, but my personal choice would be the school.

Your story made me smile. I started singing second soprano in the senior choir of an all-girls school, but moved deeper to first contralto. The sheer joy of singing in a group like that! There was talk at one time of auditioning for the local girls choir, but I was agonizingly shy at that age, and I couldn't do it. I've always regretted it a bit.

When I left school I trained as a nurse - no more regular evenings or weekends, so that was that. The performance Richard mentions, which he posted on his blog, had me out of my seat. Wonderful!

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

I liked the winners.

I thought they sounded lovely... and there is something about a Male Choir, but I thought Ysgol Glanaethwy were as good and probably more versatile, having both male and female voices.

For my money I thought Ysgol Glanaethwy had the edge.

CherryPie said...

Welshcakes reminded my of my singing days too and gave me fond memories of a former music teacher who remained a friend throughout the years.

All these choral post make me realise how much I miss it, I have even checked for local choirs on the web!

jmb said...

It's true Dr John, they were both fabulous.

Indeed Richard, it makes shivers run down my spine. A great performance.

Dragonstar I was rather inclined to them too. I found them more interesting.

I agree Moggs, they were potentially more versatile and in fact I thought they were with some of their selections.

Let's hope you can find somewhere a choir near to you Cherie. It would be great.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Liz said...

I love the song All That Jazz and I'm not keen on All by Myself but how lovely to see young men in a choir. Most of the traditional Welsh male voice choirs are struggling to get young singers to join. I didn't watch the programme either but I hope it encourages lots of men to get singing!

Janice Thomson said...

What a lovely hour spent on YouTube listening to all the choirs - simply amazing. I have to admit O Fortuna sent chills down my back too. I'm decidedly glad I didn't have to choose between the finalists.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks for the link, dear jmb. Well, how couòd I judge?!