Watch this space – over but not out

And so the final session of the Roehampton Community choir project took place this week

We started with 24

We ended with 8

I am not downhearted about this

Life has thrown some curve balls at many participants, for many – the school summer holidays, for others a more complicated balance of illness and relationship and life issues

The final report is in – I have meetings over the next few weeks to think about where next

I am not sure where or how but for certain Alton Sings will continue in some shape or form

In the meantime, here is a link to some audio recordings of rehearsals


The elephant in the room


Thank you thank you to Cerys Matthews and her book “Hook, Line and Singer” – a wonderful resource

We had a lot of fun with “Nelly the Elephant” this week, that toe tapper from the 1950’s – this may sound like a rabble down the pub to some of you but to my ears it is music indeed, as it is a small group making a BIG noise and that for a community choir leader is a fabulous thing as it means that inhibitions are leaving the room. “Nelly the Elephant” is actually a pretty tough song, lots of notes and very rangy and even those who are not sure of all of it are singing strongly the bits they know which is brilliant. It may all sound a bit chaotic but listen to the joy, to the laughter and to the freedom. This is so important and from here we can tidy it up a bit as needed but it is FAR harder to move from ‘tight and tidy’ to expressive and joyful so I am very happy indeed

`Here also is another pic, reminding me to work on my posture ……


Giving new singers a chance to play around with lots of different types of material and lots of different ways of learning songs is vital (ie call and response, notation, not notation, no words, words on the wall, words on sheets etc) – my favourite way to teach is certainly no words, no notation and call and response but my favourite way as a participant is notation and words, so different strokes for different folks

It is also really necessary to let people have a good old sing with no concern of making mistakes and really giving themselves permission to sing out – I also make mistakes on the piano, apologise but with laughter, not because I am not taking the session seriously, quite the opposite – what I am saying is, it is not the end of the world to make mistakes

In fact this session inspired me so much it is going to inform the way forward for the project

More on that soon

Final session next week and then final report

Musings …………

When I was first asked to set up this project, to see if there was an appetite for a community choir in Roehampton, I wanted very much to set up an inclusive group where everyone could come and sing together

I am now wondering in an estate as large as Roehampton (13,000 so says the t’internet and that of course must be right – hmmm) whether in fact there does need to be different strokes for different folks, ie different groups so a sense of core identity can build within the group

I have felt unsettled since the last session, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I do remember how fantastic the taster was for the mums at the school – all had english as a second language, all lived on the estate, all had children at the school, many had come to Roehampton from similar areas in the world, mainly southern europe,the middle east and northern Africa – it was wonderful because there was enough similarity but enough difference, enough curiosity and enough connection to make the group ‘gel’

We have a very disparate group presently. Three new participants, all of whom started in different weeksand each week there is a different combination of people with four or five coming every week. We have two men. Ten is an odd number. It is more than your average singing together group and yet certainly not big enough to call a choir

We sang “Wild Rover” this week and Ellie and I offered up whether it should be sung in unison or in harmony and gave examples. The group as a whole chose to sing it in three part harmony but that is tall order when you only have three or four people on each part if you are not used to singing in harmony. Everyone worked really hard and “Banana Boat Song” with various volunteers taking the ‘call’ sounded fabulous but my sadness is whether we do really have a ‘core’ and whether that ‘core’ can spread the word sufficiently in order to build from that centre

I did what I do to set the ball rolling through my energy & enthusiasm and was followed by some members of the group – one of whom I realise was missing this week and THAT may be why I felt unsettled as she is really a very positive, warm and galvanising force – but lots of people simply and quite reasonably want to come for a sing each week and do not feel able for lots of valid reasons to promote a group, especially if they themselves live outside the area

I will most certainly be writing in my report that the lead up time to all such projects in future must be DOUBLE in order to really get to know the community and to make the kind of headway that Shelly has made in Glasgow at

It has taken Shelly over three years and she now runs 6 singing groups, including the original community choir, employs other singing leaders and there are also guitar and drum groups running – amazing, but Shelly lives in the area and spent months and months and more months walking and talking plus it is her only job! (A HUGE one at that)

Her project inspires me but needs to inspire others too so they can help the current members spread the word

I really do want to be able to write a report that says that there is absolutely a desire not only for a community singing group in Roehampton but a community choir but as I lay my head down to sleep tonight I ask for inspiration as to how to let people know about it without busting my gut – we got a full page on the back of the Roehampton Voice, the local newsletter delivered to thousands of homes but that is clearly not making a dent

The only thing I can think of is to cancel the last session and instead deliver three 30 min ‘promo’ sessions at Cafe Joy, the pub, ASDA, Minstead Gardens in the street, Community Clubrooms in the evening etc and then will we get enough of the choir able to give up their time to make an impact

Next post will be the video of Alton Sings performing at the Roehampton Festival which should boost my unusually flagging spirits along with a phone call to Regenerate, the local community organisation to see if they have any bright ideas

Roehampton Festival 2013

Alton Sings make their first public appearance after only 8 rehearsals! (Some only have between 2 and 5 rehearsals making it doubly impressive)

More pictures, video and comments to follow soon

Beth at Regenerate who organised the festival and invited us sent a lovely email saying,


Just wanted to say a huge thank you for coming down on Sunday you guys were fantastic it was a pleasure to have you there.

Kind regards,


They did themselves PROUD and made me especially smiley

Onwards ………..

alton sings at Roe Fest 2013