When I was at school, far too many years ago now, there was a big divide between Sport and Music. For my sins I fall into the Music camp and indeed one of the reasons I started to learn the Organ is because at Cranleigh, the school chapel was about the furthest point from the Rugby field. This suited me rather well and instead of spending my afternoons running up and down a muddy field getting thrown to the ground and trampled on, I sat at the chapel organ with cycling gloves on to stop my fingers freezing whilst I learnt how to play something by JS Bach.
To be truthful this didn’t do a lot for my ‘street cred’ at school, particularly as I was in the House famed for success on the Rugby field. But then, one day at the beginning of my second year, that all changed. It was the time of the annual House Singing Competition. It was soon apparent that I was the only person with even a slight inclination towards music and, despite only being in the Lower Fifth, I was put in charge of our entry to the House Singing Competition.
I shall never forget the evening of our first rehearsal. All 70 people of 2 North trooped into the music school (most barely even knew where it was!) and I came face to face with the best sportsman in the school. At 14 there I was stood up on stage with virtually the entire 1st, 2nd and 3rd XV School Rugby teams all staring back at me wondering what the hell I was going to do next! I looked back at them wondering just how long it was before I was going to be completely crucified. These guys thought that football was a ‘girls sport’. And as for music, well that was only for complete losers.
The song I’d chosen was “Consider Yourself” from ‘Oliver’. I had no idea whether anyone would like it. However, my secret weapon, and potentially the only thing I had in my favour, was that Rugby players were great fans of Teamwork and ‘House Spirit’. Conscious that I was the only person in my year not to have been awarded my House Tie for success in a sporting event I used this to my advantage and focused on the teamwork required to sing together. Amazingly they all bought into it and even more surprising was that after the first rehearsal some of the 6’7 rugby players were even heard singing the tune as they left the practice room.
As the term wore on and our weekly rehearsals continued, I was so pleased not to have been hung drawn and quartered for being a feeble & pathetic music geek, that I got ambitious and decided to transform the traditional Unison Choir into a Two part choir. I don’t think this had ever been done before with the “Full House Song”. But to me it seemed a great idea and somehow I made it work.
Does the story have a happy ending? Well yes, surprisingly it does. 2 North not only won the House Singing competition that year, but I was awarded my House Colours which, certainly for a while, spared me from the inevitable punishment by death for being a non sportsman!
For me, that was my first real experience of running, what could be termed, a ‘Community Choir’. It proved to me a couple of very important things. First of all, almost without exception, everyone can sing. Not only that, given the right circumstances and incentives, even the most unlikely candidates can be won over by singing together in a choir. Lets face it, if you go to a Rugby match, the fans will generally be heard singing before, during and after the game! So if you’re looking for the inspiration to start a choir at your school, surprisingly, you might want to start by auditioning the sports people!