My friend Rosie and I had been thinking of joining a choir for some time. In January 2014, we made our decision and joined Waltham Forest Community Choir. Its rehearsals were held in St. Mary's Church Walthamstow which was a lovely venue, and central for both of us as we live at opposite ends of the borough. I think perhaps it was the word 'Community' that really persuaded us though. It is exactly what the choir has proved to be.
Joining in the January meant that the Winter Programme was already underway (having begun in September) which made our first few weeks quite daunting. I really believed that I was never going to learn the music well enough to do anything other than mime! But miraculously it happened. As the weeks went on, I became more confident and I found myself singing the right notes in the right order (mostly)
This process was largely assisted by the friendly, welcoming and often talented established members. At the first meeting, for example, I stood next to a heavily pregnant young woman - Jane - who sang like an angel and with such accuracy. I felt I'd found a role model. We shared a few laughs together that first meeting and despite a considerable age difference, have remained friends ever since. In fact, friendship has been a major spin-off to belonging to this lovely choir.
Marie-Claude was the Musical Director when I joined. She had founded the choir in 2010. She chose wide-ranging music and was keen on out-reach work which took us to Residential Homes and Charitable Events which continues to be a worthwhile part of who we are.
I've liked almost all of the music we have done since I joined. I especially enjoyed the themed concert we did on 'The Sea.' 'Seal Lullaby' and 'Into the West' will remain favourites. These were performed under our present Musical Director Jamie who has brought humour and rigour to our practices continuing to provide a wide-ranging programme. I loved singing 'Bring me a little Water Sylvie' even if, like a few of us 'slightly' older ladies I never really got the hang of the rhythmic actions that went with it. We had some laughs trying though!
Belonging to the choir has provided me with so many memorable moments. Singing some choruses from Handel's Messiah in St Barnabus Church and getting a standing ovation from a packed congregation for our Hallelujah Chorus was one followed by a totally impromptu version of it on Tottenham Court Road Station. We were meeting there as a choir to sing at a meal arranged for homeless people as part of their Christmas entertainment. There was a piano on the station and while we waited for the last few choir members to arrive, our very talented accompanist Michael struck up the Hallelujah Chorus. We all collected around the piano, lost in the moment as we sang. It wasn't until we reached the end and the applause broke out that we realised a crowd of commuters had gathered round and were clapping enthusiastically. Magic Moment.
The Choir has been hugely impactful on my life. We are friendly with everyone but a bit of a special bond develops within one's section. We Altos have had such fun preparing our own sectional performances possibly once a year. We've practised in my house, glass of wine in hand and although we've come up with something pretty passable in the end have had a good laugh in the process... No-one tries to out-do anyone else; we support each other aware of our individual strengths and weaknesses. It is the distinguishing feature of this choir for me. It is tolerant, non-judgemental, all-embracing.
There is a good social life attached to the choir too. I Iove singing in The Rose and Crown pub Walthamstow at Christmas while we collect for our chosen charities. Our annual Quiz is a really good night run by our present Chair Paul who works tirelessly for the choir and is always moving us on with new ideas and innovations. There's Karaoke too. Quite a few members never miss a chance. Personally, I'd rather listen!
Some people come because they just love to sing. Personally, I like the performance aspect, working towards entertaining an audience, having a sense of occasion... The choir is growing and evolving but at its core it has retained all the best features that I saw on that first night. Sometimes first impressions are spot-on!