Something to get off your chest? Sing it loud and proud

2nd January 2015 at 00:00
National Teachers' Choir seeks crooners and caterwaulers alike

To Sir, With Love by Lulu will probably not be in their repertoire. Nor will Abba's song When I Kissed the Teacher. And the Hsker D rock anthem Guns At My School seems unlikely to make the cut.

But according to Baz Chapman, director of the new National Teachers' Choir, no song is off limits.

The non-auditioning choir has been set up to allow teachers to come together several times a year to sing. "Teachers are used to performance," Mr Chapman told TES. "They're used to standing in front of a class and projecting their voice. So when they come together to sing, they're usually pretty good."

Capitalising on the season of resolutions and good intentions - and significantly cheaper than a year's gym membership - the choir is holding an initial rehearsal weekend in the Midlands next month.

The aim is to run two or three such rehearsal weekends a year, during which the choir will work on a small repertoire of songs. "It's not supposed to be a major commitment," Mr Chapman said. "The idea is that we'll come together, work very intensively, and then perform to a very high standard."

The choir has already been booked to perform at Birmingham's Symphony Hall in February 2016. Mr Chapman also hopes to arrange performance slots at education conferences, festivals and shows.

Songs will be drawn from a range of genres. February's rehearsal will include the Primal Scream song Movin' On Up and Take That's Shine, as well as folk and gospel numbers. So far no specifically school-related songs are on the list.

Mr Chapman is particularly keen to encourage participation among teachers who have not previously thought of themselves as singers. "It's a very personal thing, being told you can't sing," he said. "You carry those scars with you all your life. But you don't have to audition for our choir. There will be people of all different levels, but we can still achieve a really high-quality sound and level of performance."

Ula Weber, a teacher trainer and the choir's musical director, agreed. "Every time I do a training workshop, I always start with a song," she said. "And it always surprises teachers how well they sing together. It gives them a real buzz."

The recent success of the BBC's search for choral stars in television series The Choir has raised interest in group singing. "It's shown that absolutely anyone can sing - it's not an elitist activity," Mr Chapman said.

So far, about 40 teacher-choristers have signed up. Eventually, Mr Chapman hopes to recruit 200 members, ranging from teaching assistants to headteachers.

Emma Richardson, a music teacher at Dowdales School in Cumbria, is among those who will be at February's rehearsal. "It's an opportunity to go away on a weekend and just have a bit of time to sing," she said. "And it's about being with people who really understand the pressures of the teaching week and the teaching term."

The choir, she said, would allow her to meet with other music teachers from around the country, and possibly learn new techniques that she could take back to the classroom.

"Humans have been singing together since the dawn of time," Mr Chapman added. "It's something we do to communicate, to express emotion, to learn. It can be a profoundly emotional experience."


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