On 18th May Ian Church, Vice-Chairman of the Royal School of Church Music, paid us the compliment of coming to our choir practice. He told us that we have a great responsibility; we are ‘ministers of music’, and our singing should reveal ‘a glimpse of God.’ The motto of the School is: ‘I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also’.
Ian took the second half of the practice, showing us how to ‘sing with the spirit’, and bring glory to God with ‘energy’. He thinks it’s essential to start with a ‘warm up’. Our voices are our own personal instruments, and need exercising as much as athletes, dancers and footballers exercise their bodies. The warm up creates an opportunity to say hello to each other.
So we stood up and did a lot of fun stretching exercises – standing on one leg and shaking the other, arms out and shaking the shoulders, singing The Grand Old Duke of York – clapping on the ‘ups’ and stamping on the ‘downs’, tongue twisters…you get the picture. Then Ian handed us giant playing cards, and as he played the piano and sang a number, we held aloft the appropriate card. Hilarious for all, especially the children, and quite a test of co-ordination for all of us.
To make sure we were completely uninhibited, Ian asked us to sing a line or two of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, and really ‘let rip’. Quite a cacophony! And then Ian led us in the Peruvian Gloria, with Margaret on drum. The energy levels by then were extremely high!
Ian gave us all sort of advice on singing technique, such as first singing new hymns to ‘la’ while looking at the notes. He said that every choir member must learn to read music. Ian is Music Director of St John’s, West Byfleet, with a children’s and an adult choir. He invited us to attend his choir practice at any time.
Since joining the choir just before Christmas, William (Bill) Thomas has fulfilled many of the things Ian taught us. On Trinity Sunday, Bill was presented with his certificate for completing the first ‘Singer’s workbook’ in the ‘Voice for Life’ scheme, making him a full member of St George’s Choir. He also received ‘The Choristers’s Companion’ in recognition of his enormous enthusiasm, humour and commitment to the choir.
Ian continues to encourage us with suggestions by email, and it’s very nice to be called ‘a lovely group’!