Event review: Croydon Bach Choir’s Spring Concert

By - Friday 12th May, 2017

A celebration of music itself

In rehearsal.
Photo by Moira O’Donnell, used with permission.

On Saturday 1st April, about 300 people gathered in St Mildred’s Hall to joyfully share complex sound patterns; to participate or to watch the orchestra and singers throwing sounds between themselves, to and fro, in and out, the rhythm escalating, ricocheting with rippling patterns reminiscent of waves crashing on to the shore, or of birds circling up in what appears at times as chaos and then settles to the shape and patterns of migration.

The orchestra cast out a far wider range of sound and colour than the human voice could produce. Its sounds rippled through the air waves and reached the far corners of the hall. Joyous and piercing, each instrument picked up and resonated with the next, creating an emotional experience. The orchestra members looked happy, young and vibrant; their music was playful and spoke of their youth and energy.

The choir members by contrast were older, and that was reflected in their voice range, but they were also amateurs – people who sing for love. That love of the music was communicated between themselves and towards the audience, capturing and engaging and embracing all in the room in this activity of pattern making with sounds. They were modest people, who would probably never claim to be great mathematicians, but whose understanding of sound enables them to play with it at a skill level that packs a large hall and enables them to invite professional musicians to the game.

The conductor’s whole body communicated with the orchestra and choir

The soloists, the professional singers, slipped in to join this community and add some edge to the performance, but also showed respect to their amateur counterparts and celebrated their endeavours. They were well-chosen singers who communicated well with the community, both singers and audience, and could project their voices to fill St Mildred’s Hall, which has acoustics which eat all but the most powerful voices.

The whole performance was held together by Tim Horton, the music director, who led with controlled energy. Sound processing is a whole body experience and Tim’s whole body communicated with the orchestra, choir and audience, skilfully teasing out the best to balance all elements before him and create one performance.

Sound processing is the first of our senses to develop in our mothers’ wombs; it is connected to all of our other senses, our emotions and our well-being. Music is the axle grease that makes our whole body work well. We process sound through both air and bone conduction of sound waves. The audience members in the room sat silently and bathed in the sounds that washed over them; their minds danced with the soaring sounds. I could not help thinking that they missed something by not standing to listen and use their whole bodies to engage with the sound, but that is the culture of such an event.

It was about inclusion and letting everyone come along and engage

The event in the break and at the end generated a great deal of community engagement; it was a chance for old friends to meet up, exchange kind words of support and arrange to meet again soon. The performance provided a space for them to sit quietly together and engage in something far more complex and beautiful than the usual daily chatter.

It was a splendid event on so many levels. It was a kind event. It was about inclusion and letting everyone come along and engage in a way that they felt comfortable with. Even the price of the drinks was only a suggestion. It was community music and art at its very best – good quality with ordinary people.

Music is very good for you; it is extraordinarily good for your mental health, probably much better than joining a gym. The choir rehearses on Wednesday evenings between 8pm and 10pm.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece erroneously stated that Croydon Bach Choir is a non-audition choir and that anyone may join it. Details of the choir’s application process can be found on its website.

Charlotte Davies

Charlotte Davies

I am an Educational Consultant, Director of Fit 2 Learn CIC, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. My teaching experience has covered Economics and Business Education including Enterprise; I have worked as a senior teacher. I now work to identify the root causes of educational under-achievement.

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  • Anne Giles

    I heartily agree that music is good for you. We play a CD over breakfast every morning and always have one on when we are driving. We don’t like classical music, so in our case it is folk, country, jazz or rock. All music is an art form, of course.