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Sharon Bill Music Tutor & Author

New eBook on the horizon

My new eBook is on the very near horizon. It's a sort of 'Memoirs of a Music Tutor' written as a series of letters. Here is an extract to give you a taste of things to come. I've really enjoyed writing it, I hope you enjoy reading it…

"Rehearsal began as usual and Audley, our conductor, began the usual rigmarole of ‘warm-ups.’ Before we even begin singing all dignity is thrown to the winds as he has us bending and twisting this way and that. Vocal chords then get the warm-up treatment as he orders us to make strange shrieking noises and yawning effects. Now we are ready for the scales and vowel exercises. By now we are all thoroughly embarrassed (although equally supple and versatile in body and voice) and so it’s a matter of self preservation to avoid eye contact with your choral neighbour. As the choir began ascending and descending vowel sounds a strange whining noise appeared on the edge of hearing and gradually grew in intensity. A little confused, but as yet undaunted, Audley brought down the baton and retried the exercise. Again the same Banshee sounds soared above the scales - it seemed to be coming from the front row of the basses. Admittedly we were attempting a new vocal exercise and I won’t be the last one to say that, at times, the basses do miss the point (or the pitch), but this was something quite different. Abandoning the new exercise, being at a loss to discern the problem we reverted to some tried and tested sequences but the culprit was obviously gaining confidence and the situation was getting worse. It was also being replicated in the second sopranos - on our row! By now the rehearsal was in disarray and everyone was looking around in horrified wonder trying to pin-point the instigator of the problem. Although Audley is a man of many talents he had no idea how to discover why the rehearsal was in a shambles. We began work on the current repertoire but the situation simply got worse. We were learning a new piece which was very difficult and also very discordant. It was impossible to tell which were the right ‘wrong’ notes - which clashes were composed and which were improvised. The culprits were two strangers who had launched themselves upon us and seemed to be having a great time.
During the interval it would have been helpful to have a bit of a chat with the two new prospective members (not that they’d ever be allowed to officially join) but this was impossible as they spent the entire break locked in each other’s arms in a passionate embrace. The situation really needed to be dealt with but nobody seemed willing to take the matter into their own hands and nobody knew quite what to do. Too long was spent deliberating the problem and the conductor was back at his stand ready to plunge into the rehearsal again - such a brave man. Hurried whispering amongst various committee members suggested that the problem be investigated further by catching the newcomers at the end of the rehearsal. Such plans were thwarted as the couple left a quarter of an hour before the rehearsal ended. Fifteen minutes wasn’t long to make good progress with the piece but we did what we could, there’d always be next week.
Early the next Tuesday the required committee members drove to our rehearsal venue, to put out the chairs, only to find the passionate pair keeping themselves busy until somebody opened the door. Polite conversation followed and tentative enquiries were made. It was made clear that a strict audition process was needed in order to become a member of the choir. Hearty acknowledgement indicated that such a process would not daunt them and another chaotic rehearsal ensued. Lack of any sense of pitch was, of course, a serious issue but the main problem was that neither the bass nor the soprano were bothering to look at the music books which had been loaned to them. Totally regardless of anything of the mayhem that they were creating they were having a jolly good sing-song! Caught up in the joy of choral singing they were giving vent to the most unguarded rapture of word and voice that I have ever witnessed. They were making their own sounds, their own words and were totally indiscriminate in terms of pitch and volume. It was a wonder to behold. Somehow or other the conductor made the best of a bad business. In our foolishness we thought that protocol would take its course and this would be the last rehearsal that would be affected by such a racket. During the interval the couple managed to keep away from each other’s lips and chatted among the voice groupings. We started to smell a rat when the soprano told me that she’d come to the choir because she liked being with old people (I took great exception to that.) She then asked Maggie (who is an OAP) if she liked singing Karaoke. It was patiently explained that they would need to see the conductor at the end of the rehearsal and audition before they could continue. (False hope - but what can you do?)
Our hopes were dashed when they scuttled away fifteen minutes before the end of rehearsal - this couldn’t happen again! A vigilant tenor noticed that a taxi had pulled up to take them away and ran out of rehearsal to ask where they were going. It transpired that they’d walked almost eight miles to get to rehearsal as a matter of economy but were taking a cab home. There would be no rehearsal next week as it was a school holiday but matters obviously needed taking into hand. The Chairman was forced to step up to the plate and track them down to clarify the situation. It was quite sad really as there were obviously other learning difficulties here, but our choir really wasn’t the place for them. This may sound discriminatory, but that’s the point - you are discriminated by your voice. During the audition process you are allocated a seat according to your vocal range. I am discriminated from sitting in the alto section, even though I’d like to sit next to my friend there. Sadly it also follows that someone who is utterly tone deaf is discriminated from joining the choir - Verdi didn’t write for dissonant divas.