My love affair with singing - Chris Lee
I’d love to be able to say that my Mum and Dad met through singing in a choir together. The latter is true - they both sang with the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union (where my Mum would apparently swoon over principal conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent) but they knew each other before that.
A lasting memory is of my Mum’s enthusiasm for Wednesday nights when us kids were put to bed by my Dad and she went off to choir rehearsal. ‘Me time’ was how she described it and she always said that having one night a week to sing in the choir saved her sanity as a mother with four children!
‘Getting away from the kids’ was just one of a range of benefits given by choir members at Royston Choral Society when asked why they liked to sing in the choir (apart from enjoying music and singing). Other reasons given were ‘unwinding after a busy day’, ‘mixing with like-minded people in a friendly environment’, ‘de-stressing’ and ‘the drink in the pub afterwards’. I personally think the buzz when all the parts of the choir come together in harmony is pretty unbeatable.
My love of singing probably has a lot to do with my upbringing. Not only did my parents sing, but my three elder sisters used to perform in the folk clubs on Merseyside. We were also fed a diet of Jacqui and Bridie and The Spinners alongside Flanders and Swan. My own association with folk clubs is more for listening than performing; fortnightly I enjoy incredibly talented acts at the Royston Folk Club – there’s something about live music…
I sang in the school choir up to the age of 18 (we had a top tenor at our school so we ended up doing pretty advanced stuff, including St Matthew Passion) which makes it all the more surprising that I didn’t join the Royston Choral Society until 2000 - more than 25 years after leaving school.
I actually took it up during two decades when I was living with mental ill health. It’s well known that singing can lift the spirits, but it was more complicated than that. I had a fixture in my week – a bit like my mum’s ‘me-time’ – and I was surrounded by people who didn’t know what was going on in my head, so I had to act ‘normally’ – no sympathy, but plenty of support.
That original therapeutic reason for singing in a choir is, I’m happy to say, no longer necessary (or maybe it’s singing that’s keeping the ‘black dog’ at bay?) but I’ve stayed with the choir and, apart from one sabbatical term off, I’ve been a member for close to 20 years. I reckon that’s something to sing about!
Chris Lee 10.4.19