I always used to love those days at primary school when it was too wet or snowy to do PE outside - or something happened which meant one teacher was left with the whole school in the games hall. I used to long for these times because they meant that the teacher would then ask us pupils if we had "a party piece" we could show to the others. This meant usually watching someone attempt a "modern dance", a card trick which invariably went wrong, and joy of joys I got to sing one of the songs my grandma had taught me.
There seemed to be lots of opportunities to sing together in those days, sometimes solo, sometimes all together and that raising of voices in song has happily become a way of life for me. It has been a huge part of my life's work to help enable singers at all stages in their development to sing, to sing better and to sing with joy and passion. However, I see very little opportunity nowadays for people to come together and just sing. There has become a culture of singing being only for those who are "good at singing", whatever that means, and then added to that the very real fear of standing in front of an audience and being judged and compared to others.
We seem to have forgotten the value of singing just for the sheer fun of it, enjoying the song and celebrating the singer without criticism and this is why I wanted to create the Matinée series of events which began last Saturday to great acclaim!
These are afternoon events which celebrate music - singers of all abilities and experience are invited to share a song with us, we have an accompanist and singers can choose whether they want to sing just solo or have the audience join in too. We have singers who have never dared sing in front of an audience before, singers who have never sung with a live accompanist before, mixed in with very experienced and professional singers.
A note on the audience. I like to create a framework for audiences which I call the "active audience". The active audience member not only has the opportunity and permission to join in when they know a song, they can sing along, or hum, or sway, or dance... The active audience member is enlisted in showing that we are responsible for supporting the solo singer and becomes an enabler for the singer being attentive, listening with their eyes (as the famous song says) , using their body language to let the singer know they are with them (with a smile etc.) and, most importantly of all, choosing to leave their judgement at the door and just celebrate the singer and the song.
This involvement means that there is no longer a divide between singer and audience, its just an US, and then the joy of making music can transcend....
If there are any singers or active audience members reading this who were at last week's event, please do leave your comments about your experiences below, it would be wonderful to be able to encourage more and more people to join in with these life affirming afternoons! Our next event can be found HERE and booking will open in January. Congratulations and many thanks to all of you who took part in the November Matinée!!