Meet Our ChoirCommunity Members (Ep. 1) – Kari Olsen-Porthouse

June 22, 2023 - By 
A large choir raising their hands and singing

Hi ChoirCommunity, Gitika here!

Last week I got a little ping in my inbox to say someone in our Choir Community had bought one of my Christmas titles, and for some reason I had a little sneaky look to see who it was and found Kari!

I got in touch and found out that Kari Olsen-Porthouse and I did the same Performing Arts degree at the same college…. and possibly slept in the same room in the same hall of residence!  I am (a little!) older and was there a few years before but was completing my Secondary Music PGCE at the same time Kari did her degree.

Piers, Craig and I have been thinking about doing some sort of special series of blogs where we introduced some of the other wonderous choir leaders who have signed up and joined the website.  This felt like the ideal opportunity to let you know two things – not only is it never too early to think about Christmas Repertoire and to publish the first of our MEET OUR CHOIRCOMMUNITY MEMBERS blogs .

I am going to let Kari introduce herself and also say a big belated happy birthday to her!  I am particularly excited by her Liberty Belles who rehearse in Kari’s friend’s Hair Salon

Take it away Kari!

I’m Kari and I’m a community choir director running 3 face to face choirs and one online.

This week has been slightly different as I’m celebrating a fairly large birthday so many rehearsals have involved cake, the bar being open, balloons, crafty songs being re-written behind my back as well as the usual level of joy and wonder we create during rehearsals!

The West Bridgford Liberty Singers is my largest and longest running choir with 153 singers meeting fortnightly on Mondays. Last night my friend had re-written Green Green Grass to be a song for them to sing to me which was a total surprise and quite lovely!

The East Leake Liberty Singers is my newest choir with 62 singers (including 2 men, both called Alan). They meet fortnightly on Thursdays and are full of the usual enthusiasm that comes with a brand new choir. The bar is ALWAYS open in rehearsals (I work with one group while the others take their break and then we swap) and this week there might be some chocolatey treats.

The Liberty Belles are my invitation only ladies’ choir (about 25) and we rehearse just once a month in my friend’s hair salon (I get my hair done just before rehearsal – these things are important!). I like to push these ladies a little more so we often sing acapella songs or things which are slightly harder than the mainstream ‘big choir’ repertoire. It’s these ladies who have been singing Gitika’s arrangements.

The ICU Liberty Singers are my most famous choir. I set this up for NHS Critical Care workers in November 2020 as a thank you to them and for their wellbeing and meeting on zoom. We ended up releasing a single (it was quite bizarre. I signed a record contract at my kitchen table….) The singers wanted to carry on and so now we’ve been running online for 2 and a half years gathering online once a fortnight and meeting ups a couple of times a year to socialise, rehearse and have a gig as well as singing at industry conferences.

I run workshops, singing/confidence coaching as well as workplace wellbeing sessions.

It is my passion, my calling and my absolute pleasure to be able to reach so many people with the magic of singing together.

Questions for Kari

GITIKA -I notice the bar is always open during one of your choirs, mixing singing and alcohol? I wonder how many choirs do that! Might have to do a poll. I was going to ask who makes the tea?

KARI -I stopped the tea break with the bigger choir because it takes too long! In a 2 hour session we have two 10 minute breaks and people bring their own tea/coffee/water etc

The choir where the bar opens also serves tea and coffee 🥰.  It’s in a different building which means singers get a good 20 minute break while I work with one half of the choir then we swap.

I will say, the performance rules are only 1 drink before we sing otherwise it degenerates into shouting 😹😹😹

GITIKA Who designs and does the upkeep of your beautiful websites?

KARI Vicky Price (harmony web design) who has sung with our West Bridgford choir since the start. I keep the blogs going and the photos are nearly all done by our professional photographer Ali Johnston – also a singer 😌

GITIKA Do you have an admin assistant?

KARI Not at the moment. I did have for a time when I got really busy but I’ve found a rhythm that suits me now so I can manage myself.

GITIKA What do you do to wind down and recharge?

KARI Yoga (with one of my singers who retrained as a yoga teacher) and weight training at the gym. I read a lot, I sew sometimes and still have piano lessons 😌

GITIKA What are your favourite ChoirCommunity arrangements that you’ve tried so far?

KARI I bought Ed Aldcroft’s Hyperballad in early 2022 and taught it as an intense double workshop and we all really, really loved it! 😊 .  I’m also looking forward t0 singing our recent downloads, Sleigh Ride and Wonderful Christmastime this year!

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