So, next Thursday I am planning on going back to my old secondary school to carry out a workshop with the school choir. A member of the choir for my full six years of my education, and a complete choral enthusiast, I am quite excited. The reason I think they need such a workshop is not just to pass along some basic skills such as support, breathing, volume and things of that nature. What I want to get across is the difference between a solo performance and a group performance, essentially what it means to be in a choir.
From my own experience of Salesian Secondary College Choir (SSCC) I know where the weaknesses lie. Whilst there is such potential, and unrelenting talent, there is a lack of unity. My current choir, County Limerick Youth Choir (CLYC), is a touch renowned in our area. We have won numerous competitions, performed all over Ireland and have been reviewed and recorded for RTE Radio more than once. But what is the difference between the two? Yes, the fact that CLYC is audition entry means there is a certain standard of musical literacy and ability, but is that really why SSCC can’t reach that standard. No.
The major difference I see is the sense of family that is present in CLYC. There is not only a respect, but a reverence, for our choirmaster who we all love and adore. There is a comraderie between members. There is no power struggle, no fight for solos. Everyone is happily settled in their line and no one bitches or moans if they are second soprano yet again. No one takes offence at being considered an alto or first bass. In the broad scheme of things, there is little thought for the individual. All that is done is done for the choir so that we, as a group, can reach a standard that would be far more dizzying as a solo effort. And with this sense of family, there is security. You learn your line so that you are not the weak link, dragging down the entire choir’s sound. You know that, should you falter, you will be able to just about pick out the other two first sopranos within the mixed positions. You know that, should you mess up completely, no one will be bitter. We marvel at each others skills, one girl’s perfect pitch, one boy’s ability to hit 2 octaves below middle C, one soprano’s impeccable tone. We admire, and envy perhaps, but not begrudge. We wish each other well for auditions, or in my case, harrass the Leaving Cert students into putting down Music in Mary I for college next year. We are together, as a choir we are one.
The case with my school is rather a group of individual singers together. This attachment to the individual and the eagerness for solos is all fine and well but should never surpass the greater good of the group (that sounded a lot less communist in my head.) What I want to bring to these kids next Thursday is to try and let go of that ego, embrace the greatness the group as a group can achieve, to find that same excitement in a line building on top of another line that I get every Saturday morning from 11 until 1. If I can do that, then I have done my job.