One of the best things about living in Letchworth is the variety of activities that are available to the people who live here. In my Out and About in Letchworth blogs, I’m meeting some of these groups and taking part in the activities on offer. This month, I paid a visit to the Stevenage Male Voice Choir, a group with a number of Letchworth members.
The phrase “I can’t sing” is one that the members of the Stevenage Male Voice Choir have heard many times, with the majority of first timers offering that phrase almost by way of introduction. Including by me in fact, a statement I stand by and have had corroborated by multiple people in my life.
Uttering these words as I walked in, I was quickly taken by Geoff, my chaperone for the rehearsal and the group’s tenor representative, over to the group notice board where I immediately spotted a song written by one of the members aptly titled ‘I Can’t Sing’, a nod to the frequency in which they hear the phrase from people.
Geoff explained to me that every member is nervous the first time they come through the door, and saying you can’t sing is a very normal, nervous reaction of prospective new members. He then said something quite interesting; “everyone can sing, but many people are just not willing to try”.
I’ve given some thought to this statement in the time between visiting the group and now and, while I stand by my previous sentiment of not being able to sing (renditions of Mr Brightside after a few drinks notwithstanding), I think Geoff may have a point. The most intimidating part of singing is, in my opinion, having the confidence to sing. And the atmosphere within the choir definitely helps alleviate some of this anxiety.
I was amazed with the level of coaching and direction given by Paul, the group’s MD (or musical director to the non-initiated). The work that Paul does with the group through each rehearsal makes sure that everyone is always improving and even those who originally said they ‘couldn’t sing’ are able to become vital parts of the collective.
The group meet for two hours on a Friday evening, including a tea break and an opportunity for everyone to catch up, enjoy a cup of tea and rest their voices. These rehearsal sessions are split between learning and perfecting new songs for upcoming concerts, as well as going over their existing repertoire and making sure it doesn’t just become second nature to perform these songs.
2018 is an especially significant year for the choir, as they celebrate their 60th anniversary. Their ‘Sixty Years of Harmony’ celebration event sees a number of special events including performing at Stevenage Day in June with the public given the opportunity to perform with the choir, as well as recording a new CD and hosting a members gala dinner.
The centrepiece of these celebrations is a concert taking place in October at the Gordon Craig Theatre, with members of the Stevenage Ladies Choir, Hitchin Symphony Orchestra and choirs from John Henry Newman School joining the group to celebrate in style.
Here’s to 60 more years of the Stevenage Male Voice Choir I say!
Prospective members are invited to join any Friday evening rehearsal, running from 7:30pm-9:30pm at Stevenage Community Arts Centre. To find out more about the choir and their upcoming concerts, visit their website at smvc.org or email email@example.com