internship, joining the choir, SATB choir

More Than Just Accompanying by Sylvia Jen

As a pianist, I have accompanied soloists, ballets, musicals, and various kinds of ensembles, but never an adult’s choir, only children’s or youth choirs. I was finally given the chance to accompany an adult’s choir when I was appointed the accompanist intern to Leeds Vocal Movement. And what a journey it has been!

I learnt many things during my time with the choir. The first major thing is seeing the Kodaly method in action, which Caitlin (our amazing choir conductor) uses to hone the skills of the choir to help them pitch and tune more accurately as a group. It works wonders as the choir became better at keeping in tune without the aid of the piano as the year went on. I knew about the Kodaly method and the Solfege system, but have never used it to learn or teach music. Working with LVM has opened my eyes to the benefits of the system, and I’ve started to apply some of Caitlin’s techniques in my own teaching (I teach piano to kids). Caitlin has been keen to offer advice as well which just goes to show the open sharing culture of this friendly choir community.

Secondly, I got better at sight-reading, particularly four-part and sometimes six-part choral music! Even though this is an unauditioned choir, the quality of singing and complexity of music is not lacking. Certainly, not all the music that we sing is highly complex, as we learn pieces from all kinds of genres. However, I did find that I was playing more complex music than I had done for youth choirs, which really pushed my boundaries and I’m grateful for the challenge.

Lastly, I learnt about all sorts of things that are non-music related as the choir members come from various backgrounds, some are musically trained, though most are not. This makes for really vibrant and interesting conversations, which one can always find at the weekly pub gatherings after choir rehearsals.

I love that this choir isn’t just about singing and performing choral music (and me accompanying that), but it’s a community of like-minded people that come together to learn, socialise, and enjoy music-making, and I’m so proud to be a part of that!