We’re off!

AS first session 0

I am delighted to report that 24 people attended the first session of the Alton Sings Roehampton Community Choir project. This was how they heard about it:

Meeting me 6 people
SW15 website 4 people
Word of mouth 4 people
Leaflet 3 people
Supporting a friend or partner 3 people
Seeing the Saturday
session outside library 2 people
Referred by physio 1 person
Referred by social worker 1 person

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There was a good representation geographically across the local area with nearly everyone being within walking distance of the venue at the ‘library end’ of Danebury Avenue. There were residents there from the Alton, Danebury, Ashburton and Dover House estates as well Clarence Lane and as a resident from the new build opposite 166 Roehampton Lane. We also had 3 come from the Kairos centre.

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As to be expected there were a lot more women than men (we had 4 men, all with good strong voices) and the majority of people were over 40 but with a good broad demographic from teenagers to those in their 80’s. There were people who knew one another but many complete strangers.

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Some of the reasons for attending included:

“I am new to the area and would like to meet other people from the community – it would be so great to see a face in the street that I know and can say ‘hello’ to”

“I have wanted to join a choir all my life”

“I want to be part of the best choir in the world” (no pressure …….)

“I want to be part of the community and get to know more people”

“I came because I know singing can help improve my poor breathing, due to lung disease”

“I wanted to come because I don’t think I can sing”

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There was a strong feeling of gentle warmth and good will in the room. It is rare to find a group of strangers so willing to talk to their neighbours and share stories at a first session. It felt like this was the start of something really very important and over the weeks this group will develop into what they want to be and represent and will contribute strongly as to where we head after the pilot.

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We sang “Drunken Sailor”, “Cockles and Mussels”, “Yonana”, “Kumula Vista”, and “Senua de Dende”

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The voices were strong and confident and were able to sing together in unison, in rounds and in three parts. Also everyone moved very quickly into three voice parts (low, middle and high) once I demonstrated which areas of the voice that may be.

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I chose this first week to work without lyric sheets (all call and response) and without instruments and am likely to repeat this next week so that people learn to really embed the learning in an embodied way – I have found that lyric sheets and pianos tend to detach participants from themselves and one another. There is something deeply simple and powerful about a cappella group singing

To my delight, the partner of one participant is a cahon player and she has said she will ask him to join us.

This feels like a gentle and steady beginning and I hope very much it will build from this.

The setting is OK, it is good and central with good bright windows – the air conditioning not great for singing voices and the loo’s are two floors down but thankfully there is a lift and it is clearly the first time the Sport and Fitness Centre has played host to such an activity and it feels a safe and bright space for people to attend in the evenings and the staff were relaxed and supportive.

Delighted, especially as comments afterwards included:

“It helped with my confidence – I really enjoyed it”

“GREAT time – thanks so much”

“A FANTASTIC first session, I feel so good – a great start”

“A really good evening, I loved it”

“The best community project that has ever been in Roehampton”

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, full of music & song, fun & friendship”

“A great opportunity to ‘meet the neighbours’ and do things together”

“A very good opportunity to both meet different people in the community and learn together”

“I thought I couldn’t sing ……. but maybe I can”

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