Thursday, 19 January 2012

More than music

Arts Development have asked me to set up a choir to follow up to the Parallel Lives project. I’m excited about this opportunity as it allows me to build upon previous work rather than starting all over again in a new setting. And the choir will not just be any choir. It will be an intergenerational choir, bringing children and adults in the community together. As the choir will be a community development project, the role of the actual singing and music making may, however, be less obvious.

Intergenerational work brings different generations together to build more cohesive communities. Young and old benefit from such meetings. In an intergenerational choir younger participants will have an opportunity to meet trustworthy adults who are willing to take time and show interest in them, nurturing their talents. Older singers may have an opportunity to feel valued and share their stories and memories. Like in the other community music projects I've been involved in, the choir will be an opportunity for different groups of people to meet each other and create a dialogue.

A few days ago I read Lyn Gardner’s blog in the Guardian about community theatre in London. She argues that community theatre is about process rather than product. This is no less true for a community choir. Singing together in an intergenerational choir can help children and adults to bond. In Torry, community members want the choir to provide an opportunity for children to meet people who can take on the role of grandparents. Everybody who has ever sung in a choir will have experienced the sheer joy of singing together. The choir can also help the singers to understand community relations. To produce a good sound, and thereby a better experience, all singers will have to carefully listen to the people around them, and – quite literally – sing from the same (hymn)sheet. Everyone’s contribution is important.

In the community choir I’m intending to sing a lot of Scottish folk songs. Folk songs tell about the events, experiences and feelings of the people who wrote them. They may be a starting point for the adult members the choir to talk about their lives and the community. The very fact that there is scope to add new songs to the repertoire means that younger members of the choir can return this favour by writing a song about their own lives.

So what role is there for music in an intergenerational community choir? I’d say that even though singing may not be an objective in itself, it will be important as a means to achieve the wider community development objectives of the choir. 

Copyright text Petra Vergunst

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