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Sharon Bill Author & Music Tutor

Grass Roots

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Music can be enjoyed on many levels. As part of my private music tuition practice I write a quarterly article for a local parish magazine. Here is a piece I wrote some years ago…
I always think that music making is at its best at a local level. We all like to see a show in London or Birmingham - and it’s a great treat, but that isn’t every day life. It’s in the daily ‘here and now’ that music is at its best. After talking about my family and music in the village in the last article I had some lovely calls in response. In particular a gentleman telephoned to say that he had grown up with my Aunty (who now lives in South Africa) and we later discovered that he sang in the same choir as my Uncle and even sang at his funeral. A lovely example of music touching us ‘where we’re at’.
My daughter has just joined the Ceramic City Choir, which I have been a member of for years and years (in between having children). It was a special moment to have her singing by my side as we sang Handel’s Messiah at the Victoria Hall this last Christmas. (In fact, the only reason the Victoria Hall was built was because local choristers joined together to build a venue to host a Choir Festival after the revival of the 19th century.) Somehow Messiah has really become ‘the music of the people’ - everybody knows it and loves it! It always makes me laugh when the audience stands during the “Hallelujah” chorus. This is a tradition hanging on from the first performance, when King George (II?) was so moved by the music that he stood, and so the rest of the audience had to stand too. It really is moving, even now. There are Youtube links showing ‘Random Acts of Culture’ where a choir disperses itself throughout a shopping mall in America and suddenly burst out with the “Hallelujah” chorus in-between the shoppers. It quite brings a tear to your eye. My Great Uncle tells me that it was sung locally, every Christmas. The conductor was self taught and practically none of the choristers could read music - they just kept on rehearsing until they got it right. Rumour has is that the village conductor had won quite a good reputation for his skills. Energy and application are the ingredients that are needed, with a nudge in the right direction here and there along the way.
Right now it’s exam time for quite a few of my pupils. Perhaps it’s a good thing to remember that music is to be enjoyed, even if there’s a bit of hard work in the process. Sometimes it’s good to sit back and take stock of what we are actually doing. So what if your audience this time is an examiner? He should still enjoy hearing you play!