I have been fortunate to have a hobby which – with the support of others – I have been able to re-invent over the past year for a socially distanced world.
Growing up, singing was something other people did. I sang badly in the primary school choir aged 10, and then not at all for the next 35 years.
In 2015, Russell-Cooke was looking at ways of improving the experience of staff in the firm and hired a musical director to help create an office choir. Out of curiosity and nostalgia I went along to the first rehearsal and many more after that. 'The Choir' ran for nearly two years.
During those two years I discovered a few important things about singing and about myself. Firstly, even with no experience and little natural talent I could make a noise that was like singing. In fact, with the right guidance, anyone has the potential to be a reasonable singer.
The second lesson is that being in a choir is a 'win-win'. I am naturally quite shy, and exposing myself (artistically that is) took some courage. But it quickly became clear that my fellow singers wanted me to succeed and that the sum of a well-organised choir is far greater than its parts (something to do with the harmonies, I understand).
There are a few things about singing that are inherently good. For example, it is a 'whole body exercise' – you do not just sing with your throat (or if you do, you're not going to sing for very long or very well). Essentially, a good singer is a relaxed singer. Singing releases those things in your brain that make you feel better, it takes all of your attention and it is a welcome distraction from the daily grind.
With the demise of the office choir I quickly came to miss singing, and I signed up for a London pop choir called Some Voices, largely on the strength of their excellent marketing ("London's coolest choir!" – Time Out). Groups learn pop songs over a number of weeks in various London venues before coming together for a big 'end of term' concert.
The first concert featured songs from Baz Luhrmann's super-cool film Romeo and Juliet and it absolutely blew me away! It was in a massive London venue with professional production values: full lighting rig, amplified sound, backing band, dancers, even dry ice. There were hundreds of us on stage belting out pop songs. It felt like being in the most uplifting sports crowd ever. I was hooked.
Then lockdowns 1-3 came along and everything had to change. Live singing was verboten, so workarounds were called for.
Like everything else in March and April 2020, choir rehearsals moved to virtual Zoom events. We each filmed ourselves at home singing a range of songs. My kitchen became my recording studio. Music and video editors then turned individual songs into a very professional-looking product. Obviously this was not the same experience as the usual weekly in person get-togethers, but it was a pretty good substitute.
The truth is that lockdown has meant being cooped up with our loved ones in a way we were wholly unprepared for. Singing has been one of my ways to cope, to connect with people and to express myself.
I hope you've found a way to "Do Your Thing" - in the words of Basement Jaxx.