As I sit here in my studio reflecting on the day ahead, outside there are many people setting off to work. I often wonder where they’re going and what they will be doing during the day. I fear the reality, for some at least, is they are headed to a dreary, grey industrial estate, probably just on the outskirts of Swindon, where it’s generally overcast and drizzling.
Once arrived, they head to the nearest coffee machine to obtain a plastic cup of coffee which is never quite warm enough and almost entirely unsatisfactory. It is for many, the last bid for freedom before they enter the world which is ‘The Office’. This will usually be a room shared with others where several desks are grouped together – apparently this makes for a more efficient working environment and enables better communication. At least that’s what they tell you. More often than not, the arrangement of desks was thought up by a computer who’s remit was to get as many people into the smallest space possible, just so the bean counters could pretend they have saved some money.
More important people get an entire room to themselves with a slightly bigger desk than their co-workers. Combined with the word ‘Manager’ somewhere in their job title, this helps to make them feel superior. To complete their image of self importance, ‘Managers’ will usually have a computer screen which is 1 inch bigger than everyone else’s and a couple of chairs on the other side of their desk so they can summon people to have ‘meetings’ in their office. In order to make it feel more homely, and distract from the grey walls, grey carpet and white plastic blinds in the window, there will usually be a tallish green houseplant somewhere in the corner. This will of course have been neglected, but somehow surviving on the occasional swig of cold coffee as it is dumped from the aforementioned plastic cup at the end of each day.
Of course, as everyone knows, the only real reason anyone needs to work hard enough to become a manager and get their own office, is to spend more of the day updating facetwit and LinkTube accounts. This enables people to communicate with other likeminded souls sitting at similar desks all around the country.
In amongst this grey world of office workers commuting to places of business in order to sit behind desks and tap important things into computers, I find myself considering my role as a choirmaster. As a job, this is about as far removed from any other role as it’s possible to be. I realise of course that my slightly stereo typical description of the workplace is probably not true for many people. You will now all be rushing to comment on this post saying how wonderful your home office is, complete with its sauna, private gym and personal coffee plantation.
When I meet people and I’m asked what I do, I usually reply, ‘I’m a Choirmaster’. In response the vast majority of people will reply : ‘Oh, I’d love to join a choir but I can’t sing’. The thing is though, being in a choir isn’t just about the singing.
Yesterday afternoon I was taking a choir rehearsal at the Great Western Hospital – and yes, that’s a big grey building just on the edge of Swindon. Due to limited availability of space, we found ourselves in a meeting room, which was probably more used to hosting groups of people sat there staring at power point presentations and being being bored out their minds for 90% of the time. But for an hour that day, the room was filled with singing and laughter and general merriment. Most of the people there had come from a busy working day or were about to start a late shift. Despite this, spirits were high and, as far as I could tell, everyone was having a great time. There were no computers, no one was face tubing their friends via a mobile phone and no coffee was supplied in plastic cups! The singing, last night particularly, was superb. So good in fact, that even I forgot they are an non-auditioned choir.
After that, I headed deeper into Wiltshire to an Indian restaurant just on the edge of Marlborough to have dinner with another one of my choirs – The BlueBelles. Albeit we are now in February, this was actually billed as their ‘Christmas Dinner’. More importantly it was a nice social event with no particular agenda other than getting together to have dinner and enjoy each others company. There was, of course, a certain amount of impromptu singing – this even cheered up the restaurant staff, who up to that point had been fairly grumpy and, it has to be said, not all particularly welcoming.
So, regardless of your working environment, if you just want to get away from it all for an hour or so each week, why not join a choir. It’s not just about the singing – most choirs do a lot of socialising too – which, ultimately, is the most important thing of all.