Singing changed my life

Singing changed my life (and life changed singing)

Guest blog by Tim Lole

Made With Many, Choir Director, Wellingborough Zoom Choir Project 

5th March 2021

My career as a musician has always been unusual; I am a bit of a hybrid. The one unifying thing is singing. I started very young, as a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral, after which I briefly pursued a career as an organist. At university I fell in love with opera and decided to train as a repetiteur – a posh name for the rehearsal pianist in opera companies who also coaches the soloists. That led to conducting; five years in Glasgow and two semi-Scottish children later, I was all set. And then I decided to have some singing lessons! That changed my life; for the first time, I started to experience what it felt like to stand in front of people with nothing but your voice – no piano or orchestra to hide behind. Scary stuff! And the process of learning to sing, to breathe properly, was completely fascinating and absorbing.

I was never a natural singer but I found an amazing teacher who could guide me through the long process. However, I lived with my family in Sussex at the time and she lived in Nottingham. So we moved to Nottingham! Suddenly a whole new world opened up – a world where I could use my music skills to work in the community and help inspire others through the power of singing. Singing, I discovered, is a very deep, powerful experience for people and seems to have transformational qualities; people seem to love and fear it in almost equal measure, but what I have experienced on many occasions is that, if you can get someone who thought they couldn’t sing to have a go and realise they actually can, it has a huge impact on them.

So that is where I found myself – working variously as a singer and pianist, a musical director, a singing teacher and as a leader of workshops in schools and in the community, working with children of all backgrounds and vulnerable adults. And then along came Covid and overnight, singing became one of the most dangerous and risky activities! How my life changed; suddenly having to learn how to teach via a computer screen and how to host an online performance from your living room! And then I saw the advert for a Choir Leader with Made With Many. Very interesting; maybe I can lead a choir in Wellingborough from my home in Nottingham?!

And what a lovely experience it has been! The participants turn up on their laptops, phones and devices, we have a quick chat and then the warm ups and the singing begins. You can’t sing together out loud on Zoom due to the time lag but that has its advantages too; we have had participants who feel self-conscious about their voices but, with the mute button, they can sing away to their heart’s content and not worry about what they sound like! What is great for me as a choir leader, is that I can still see everyone – see their smiling faces, see them singing along and witness, in a slightly strange, silent way, the power of singing in action. Of course, it is not the same as feeling the energy in a room and enjoying the sound of a group singing but, as an expedient in an extraordinary time, it has been a wonderful experience and you do still get a feeling of a shared activity and in a strange way, I feel like I have got to know them all – and their crockery shelves and wallpaper backdrops! – quite well over the weeks.

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