Posted By: Gitika Partington
A message for Choir Leaders from Gitika @Choircommunity.net
Hi everyone. I wanted to say a bit about value, well-being and connection relating to us as choir leaders. In October 2019 just before the beginning of my Autumn Choir term my mum died very suddenly. I was in terrible shock and had really not appreciated the connection I had with my mum, who was old-school northern, but also very spiritual and ‘out of the box’ – she told me she loved me a tiny handful of times during my life and was ‘true to her tastes’ throughout hers (didn’t care for my voice, my original songs, but seemed quietly to like the choir work I did). But we were connected in music. When we were children the whole family sung close harmony together to a very high level and I found it impossible to contemplate standing in from of my beloved choirs when it felt like my spiritual umbilical chord had been ripped from me. Every song reminded me of my mum. I wailed every day for 95 days, had a day off and then wailed some more.
I contacted some of my community choir leaders and asked them for guidance. The feeling that struck me the most was that when grief is so deep, standing in front of a group being ‘inspirational’ is a tough and challenging call to make. A few colleagues said they had carried on through a loss because of financial concerns and in the end, just got so drained or ill they had to stop anyway. I had a wonderful head teacher colleague who told me unless my ‘well of well-being was full’ I would not be able to nurture others. This was my livelihood, but also I was aware that I could not do it if I had nothing to give. I had to trust the universe would provide; so I let all my choirs know and refunded all the fees (as I did not want to put a time limit on my grief). A few lovely souls told me to keep the term’s money and buy cake or do some composing. I had lots of support and messages from them too.
I was just beginning to feel a bit ok when another younger family member died very suddenly and then we were hit by this crazy virus which has been nagging at us all since the New Year. There has naturally been a lot of panic and anxiety from many choir leaders due to fear of no income and mixed feeling about letting so may people down, and because we are in the job of connecting people – that is what we do. It is natural that our first thoughts would be to how we are going to get our online choirs on board. We at Choir Community offered a free session to sing-along on Friday evening (Saturday morning down-under). To be honest, I was a little cynical that there was some ‘jumping on the band wagon’ going on but Craig and Piers moved forward with such love and passion that it has become (for want of a better word at this time) infectious. When we piloted it earlier in the week and I watched Craig conducting on my computer screen, as I sang along I shed a little tear, it was unexpectedly moving. Already choir leaders are feeding back that the online sessions they have had with their choirs have been really uplifting.
But you don’t have to start right now! My feeling is, even though there is panic about how the bills will be paid, we all have to make sure we are ready to inspire, and after all the shock, you might need some time to get your ‘well of well-being’ topped up. You might yourself need a couple of weeks of self-isolation, self-meditation, time with your nearest and dearest, cooking, singing along to your favourite song on the cd (what I have been doing) before you start the baby steps, or humungous strides forward into the next part of our singing adventure in whatever form it takes. I am off to my first on-line ‘stitch and bitch’. Crocheting anyone? Take care
Love Gitika x
Past and Present – The Partington Singers and The Roaring Trowmen
When I was young I was a member of ‘The Partington Family Singers’ of which my dear brother Dave was the youngest member. We didn’t sing together for many years after we left school, until our dad (who taught us everything we know about singing) sadly died in 2014 and we sung together at his funeral. We have been doing our own singing ventures thought the years, and one of Dave’s was being a core member of The Roaring Trowmen, a wonderful Sea Shanty group who have played all the major British Folk Festivals.
When I got more involved in ChoirCommunity it became apparent that we were looking for more pieces for men and one day Dave (a keen long distance cyclist) stopped in for large amounts of cake on the way to a place many miles away by bike – the penny dropped! His group have two albums out, and by chance also had audios of each voice on its own, so I started trawling through, transcribing (with the help of Kate Gessey and Doug Waller) and making them available for you to sing. I had fun taking Dave’s bass parts and then arranging a couple for mixed voices, so got to sing with my brother again (even though he was not even in the building).
The shanties for men are labelled TTBB (tenor 1 & 2 bass 1& 2) and mostly the parts do work from high to low, but Douglas Watts (who with Sam Burns has also added to the collection) says they really are just ‘parts for men’ and don’t really follow the more conventional rules of who sings high and who sings low. Looking at them on a score, sometimes the parts feel a little curious, but these are the real deal – parts made up in the back room of a pub and really true to the aural tradition, so there is no need to be precious with them. They are not set in stone and are to be played with and changed as often as you see fit. We hope you enjoy them.
Have a look through the selection here and let us know what you think! (also try and work out who is the same person in the images above)