Setting up an intergenerational choir is a balancing act. Learning to sing together not only involves negotiating a balance between the interests of children and adults in the choir, but also the repertoire to sing.
Before starting the choir the idea of intergenerational work seemed unambiguous to me as I assumed that there would be a balance between the interests of children and adults. After the first two sessions, however, I felt the choir was more like a children’s choir with adults helpers. In part, this was a result of there being more children than adults. But this feeling was further reinforced by adults giving away ownership of the choir by suggesting what they think the children would like to sing. If anything, I learnt that an intergenerational choir is not only about balancing the numbers of children and adults, but also the extent to which their respective interests are heard.
Finding songs to sing means balancing the interests of children and adults. The children are keen to sing Glee songs and Whitney Houston, the adults have suggested songs from the shows, seventies pop and Scottish folk songs. This is the music that the children and adults are familiar with, and defines who they are. I'm trying to make sure that the repertoire contains a bit of everything. Yet, I also want to introduce some new songs as this allows them to try out something new. These new songs are not yet associated with a certain social identity and the children and adults may eventually associate them with their intergenerational encounters in the choir.
Though the negotiation of what it means to be an intergenerational choir and what is to be sung feels like a challenge at times, this struggle is part of the process that any new group goes through. Bruce Tuckman argues that any new group goes through four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing. During the first two sessions the intergenerational choir negotiated the balance between the interests of children and adults and the repertoire to sing (forming and storming). In the third session we started to focus on the performance ahead of us (norming) and what we need to do to prepare ourselves for that. To help the choir establish itself I need to listen carefully to the wide range of views on what to sing and how to sing it. To move forward, however, I have to make decisions that may not be popular with all.
Copyright text and image Petra Vergunst