I have always loved to sing. When I was in primary school, Friday assemblies where everyone sang together were my favourite thing. I once got moved to the front of the group while rehearsing for a school play because I was singing so enthusiastically. I jumped at the chance to join my high school choir, and at sixteen I fell in love with Glee and Gareth Malone. When I joined university I couldn’t wait to join the choir. I was really surprised to be the only non-music student there. I had joined as an “enthusiastic amateur”, the person who loves something without understanding it. I couldn’t have told you what the musical terms meant (I’m a little better now) and if you asked me to sing you a G sharp I’d have no idea (still don’t!) but it was there that I first fell in love with choral music. It was divine, passionate, emotive, and utterly moving. I loved it.
When I graduated university in 2013 and moved back to my home city, Leeds, I was looking for a new choir. I did some googling of Leeds choirs and was disappointed but not surprised to find so many choirs were either up to the age of 18 or didn’t have a specific age but consisted of people who were in their 50s, 60s, 70s…where was the choir for young adults? Luckily, I happened to find one that fit the bill – Leeds Vocal Movement.
Leeds Vocal Movement would generally be considered a small choir – I think the most we’ve ever boasted is roughly 35 members. But what has never been small is the passion! While my university choir introduced me to the wonders of choral music – Handel, Faure, Britten – this choir has introduced me to a much wider range since then – folk songs, contemporary covers, traditional pieces and modern choral music (Eric Whitacre is a choir staple!). It’s hard to pick one favourite piece because there have been so many great ones, but a standout piece for me is one called “Name That Tune” by Grayston Ives. It’s a mashup of multiple classical pieces – Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss. It took the choir a good six months to perfect it, and there were so many laughs along the way as we fluffed different parts. We really made it our own, and that’s one of the most special things about being in a choir to me – taking a piece, adding unique touches to it and having a lot of fun along the way!
I was asked to manage social media not long after I joined the choir and it was a really fun challenge thinking about different ways to sum up rehearsals with pictures, videos and tweets. It’s no easy feat trying to raise the choir’s profile without the money for a marketing campaign but over the five years I’ve been working on it I think our name is gradually becoming more known through Leeds and hopefully will continue to do so.
During my time in the choir we’ve worked hard to give something special to our audiences, whether that’s creating a Christmassy atmosphere and bringing a smile to passers by as we carol to raise money for different charities, or our own concerts that we strive to fill with a variety of musical styles so that there will be something for everyone to enjoy. As much as we get out of performing for others, we also gain so much ourselves, from learning different musical techniques (such as Kodaly) from our conductor, to understanding more about what we really love to sing as a choir and as individuals. So much of the fun is that you never stop learning and growing!
Leeds Vocal Movement has been a wonderfully unique choir to be part of – relatively new (less than ten years old), young adult, secular and unauditioned – brimming with people of different skill levels and musical experience but all bursting with the same musical passion. I’m proud to have watched it grow and change over the years and I hope it will long continue to provide a place for young people in Leeds who love to sing with somewhere to go and express themselves and share the joy of music with others, both members and an audience.
Picture this. I’m 27, and I’ve lived in this city for almost 10 years. I’m settled, with a job, a flat, and a fairly active social life.
Then, Something Happens (a life event) which causes me to take a good look at everything I’m doing. And what do I realise? To my abject horror, I realise that I don’t really know many people in this city, or certainly not ones who share my interests.
What do you do in a situation like that?
It can be hard when you’re an adult to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Inevitable parts of being an adult like paying your council tax and doing the hoovering can become a bit all-encompassing – when will you ever have the time to commit to new friends, new skills, new hobbies? It’s easy to build up lots of reasons to not try the new thing.
Well, I’m here to tell you that joining Leeds Vocal Movement is a wonderful new thing to try.
I arrived at the open rehearsal hesitant, even though I knew people in the choir. I’d not sung actively for a few years, and prior to that I’d been shaky at best. But I needn’t have worried that I’d be judged, or that I’d struggle to fit in. LVM is unauditioned, and allows for people of all skill levels. I don’t read music but that doesn’t necessarily hold me back, and our musical director Caitlin is not only patient, but also uses a diverse range of teaching methods which really enable everyone to learn whatever their preferred style.
After rehearsals we tend to pop to the pub for a drink, though we also hold non-alcohol socials too (our recent trip to Tropical World and Roundhay Park being a personal highlight). Joining LVM has made me feel like part of a community – I’d taken on the mindset that I didn’t need any more friends, but LVM has proven to me that going out and making new friends can be fun, even as an adult.
So that’s how stepping out of my comfort zone and joining the choir helped me win friends.
..and as for influencing people, if you like the sound of what you’ve just read, maybe you’d be interested in joining us?