By the time you read this, I’m afraid, it’ll be too late to attend the Christmas concert of the community choir to which I’ve belonged for a while now. I know, I know, you’re gutted. But maybe it’s better that way: the weekly rehearsals have become such an oddly transporting highlight of my week that it almost feels too personal to mention in public. I’m not alone in this, I realise. These days, with amateur singing exploding in popularity, there’s no happiness advice less original than “Join a choir!” So it’s strange that we still don’t really understand why it feels so good.... Read the full article
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Illustration: Thomas Pullin for the Guardian
Number one - make sure the Musical Director is a genius. Fortunately the MD of the Warwickshire Choristers is one. Number two, create an organisation where the parents are totally committed and supportive. Number three, remember that boys are not girls and they need a unique approach to rehearsals and concerts. Number four, work incredibly hard.
Garry Jones is a genius. He is a great friend of mine and a former Director of Warwickshire County Music Service. Since he retired from that job he has been working virtually full time creating the Warwickshire Choristers and, more recently, the County Male Voices; an equally excellent choir made up of all the boys that started singing with Garry 6 years ago.
The Choristers have been in the final of Music for Youth 5 times in the last 6 years and have received Choir of the Day in every BBC Choir of the Year competition since reaching the televised final in 2010. They produce CDs, go on tour and have featured on radio as well as television. They regularly perform at major concert venues including Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Truro Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and the University of Warwick Arts Centre.
It is perhaps two things that stand out for me as I watch and admire Garry at work. A concert last night is a good example. The care he takes over the choice of repertoire for the boys is extreme - but utterly worth while when you hear them. Yesterday's concert started with a sublime rendition of Ubi Caritas by Albrecht. The pure young voices of two solo choristers soared around the Parish church of Leamington Spa and set the tone for the rest of their performance; including music by Jefferson, Poulenc, Frank and Schwartz.
The boys, aged between 7 - 12, perform music that you would not think they have the maturity to manage. Le Chien Perdu by Poulenc was simply sensational; unaccompanied and without a conductor.
The reason they can do this is because of the unique relationship that Garry builds with them. This is developed in no small part by his rehearsing style. I have sat in many rehearsals and it is not unusual for Garry to spend up to 10 minutes on one sound. The boys come into a choir where excellent is simply taken for granted and the hard work needed to achieve that is there for all to see.