A Singing Resolution

You might think September is an odd time to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions but one of my resolutions coming into 2023 was to sing in a choir and it’s taken me until now to tick it off. I love singing and, from a young age, have sporadically sung in choirs and performed on stage; even when I wasn’t part of a choir, my Mum was and so choral music formed a big part of the soundtrack to my growing up.

I last sang in a choral group when the fabulous Lisa Olsworth-Peter, as Music Worship Pastor, ran the singing and baby group Sing it Out at The Old Rectory in pre-Covid times. It reminded me just how good singing is for the soul but in the wake of Covid, I haven’t really done any singing since and it’s been over 10 years since I’ve done any kind of performing, hence the New Year’s Resolution to rectify that.

Originally established in 1856, Godalming Choral Society is recognised as one of the most active and progressive choral societies in West Surrey, performing major and well-loved choral works, aiming to perform lesser known and even new works on occasion too. I’d known of GCS for a while and just hadn’t got around to joining but in April, I finally made it to a rehearsal enlisting two friends, also keen to start singing again, to come as well. A fellow Mum at the Junior School (already with the choir) introduced us to Sam Hayes, outgoing Musical Director, we were given copies of Verdi’s Requiem and warmly welcomed by our fellow sopranos as we nervously took our seats at the front.

Verdi’s Requiem has long been my Mum’s favourite piece to sing and those with the musical know-how understand what a huge body of music it really is, often being cited as one of the most dramatic and operatic pieces of its type ever composed. So, after a quick vocal warm up, it was a baptism of fire into the ‘Dies Irae’ section, arguably the most recognisable piece (and possibly the most challenging too!). Not having sung choral music for so long, to be honest, I mostly hummed my way through that first rehearsal, as I tried to juggle reading the Latin, singing the right notes at the right time and watching the conductor!

At the interval, Sam checked in to see how we were doing and more members came to introduce themselves so that by the end of the rehearsal, we had met a cross-section of the choir and felt thoroughly welcomed, even if slightly daunted by the challenge ahead, though obviously excited too.

As the saying goes ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, and as the weeks of rehearsing have gone by, my confidence has grown in the notes I’m singing and it’s been truly joyous at more recent rehearsals, hearing all the parts come together as our conductor fine tunes us, ready for our performance on 23rd September. The complexity of the music is so moving and I’ve been listening lots to various recordings at home over the summer to familiarise myself more with the entire piece – for those who like music trivia (and for any Take That fans out there), I was delighted to discover, upon listening to a BBC Proms recording from 2011, that the trumpet fanfare from within Dies Irae features at the beginning of Take That’s 1995 number 1 hit ‘Never Forget’!

Elton John was recently quoted as saying, as he finished his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, that “being in a choir is one of the most life-affirming things you can do” and I couldn’t agree more. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward this performance at Grange Park Opera’s Theatre in the Woods at West Horsley Place; it’s sure to be a grand occasion to remember as we’ve also joined forces with the Epworth Choir and the Horsley & Oxshott Choral Societies.

This Autumn also marks the beginning of an exciting new era for Godalming Choral Society with Paul Jeanes beginning his tenure as Musical Director. Paul studied at Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Music, bringing over 25 years’ experience in choral and orchestral directing with him.

If you like singing and might be interested in joining a choir, do come along to a rehearsal. We rehearse on Tuesday evenings (7.30-9.45pm) at the Wilfred Noyce Centre in Godalming.