Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Going for a song

We are in the middle of a whirl of Christmas shows - as are most parents at the moment, no doubt. I am the proud mother of a Townsperson and a Robin (two separate productions, neither with significant parts were they to drop down with the dreaded lurgy in the next 24 hours).

So, last night, my husband and I had a 'night out at the theatre' - i.e. Aladdin by Key Stage 2 (why have we dropped Infants & Juniors?) It was excellent: truly, I have to say that. It went without a hitch and to manage to organise about 150 children to be on and off stage at the right times is an amazing feat. Someone had painted a beautiful backdrop, the costumes were fantastic and I could hear every word.

It was a musical and I have to admire all the children who took major parts and sang solos. It is terrifying to stand in front of parents anyway - to do that and sing is marvellous. And no-one bottled out. And some of the notes were very high. But .... (and you knew a but was coming!) some of it was remarkably out of tune.

Now, I cannot criticise the children at all: they were doing really well. But it did set me to wondering whether or not I could sing at that age. Even my tone-deaf husband questioned the singing, and what his abilities were at that age.

My school had a choir. We were trained in classic choir songs, singing descants for the carol service and in harmonious parts. The spring term brought 'The Opera': a musical for the choir to perform. There were some solo parts and some spoken parts but the majority was choral. We did Joseph one year, Treasure Island another, I recall watching The Mikado once. I think we could sing. I know that in my final year at school we won a county choir competition and that later my sister's year recorded an album and were on the local news. So I suspect our choir was good, that we could sing.

I glimpsed the end of X-factor when Jedward were knocked out. I was fascinated by Danii's question: Is this a singing competition? Can any of these wannabe stars sing? I hear wobbles and moments of being out of tune. Is that nerves, or part of our current obsession with pushing for fame and stardom without having the correct training in place? Singing is a physical activity that requires controlled breathing and depth of voice comes from the correct use of one's diaphragm. Without this, untold damage to vocal chords can occur, which sadly will only become apparent at an older age.

I am no expert and strongly believe that singing adds so much to life: expressions of emotion, release of stress and outpourings of joy. So I am delighted that my children's school has a choir and the confidence to present a musical, but I just hope that their training will develop strength and depth rather than just enjoyment. And tunefulness...

And - for tonight - I hope that one particularly excitable Robin will remember all her words and actions. (See - extraordinarily proud mother comes first!)


Working Mum said...

Aw, lovely. I agree entirely about singing adding much to life. Singing in a choir is a chance to be in a team if you're not sporty (I'm not) and is a real collaborative activity. Singing has also been proved to increase self esteem and self confidence so more schools are going back to singing lessons and choirs and it's no bad thing! You can even introduce a competitive element with choral competitions!

I love singing in the Manchester Chorale and would like my daughter to enjoy singing too. I've been singing with her for a long time as I believe that you can improve your 'ear' with practice and she's now quite in tune. When she's 6 or 7 she can joing Canzonetta Children's Choir Training Choir, but only if she can read (words, not music) and this morning she told me she's reading everything she can so that she can join the choir. I think she's looking forward to it!

Catharine Withenay said...

WM, what you say is so true. All my singing is now limited to belting out hymns at church, or warbling around the house, but I love the release it brings. I have worked quite hard on encouraging my children, particularly my son, given that my husband can't sing the right note to save his life. I have moderate success, but am most careful never to criticise to their face: they need encouragement most of all. Nevertheless, I'm quite jealous of your daughter and her excitement about the choir!

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