Sing Like No-one's Listening!

As a teenager I was gawky and embarrassingly shy, hating anyone drawing attention, and few photos exist of me from that time. So imagine my horror during a schools Music lesson when we had to sing the scales. Solo. In front of one another. To sing in front of a draconian and impatient male teacher who also taught the boys sport and known to be a bully. Thirty of us sat in a sweaty semi circle beside a grand piano as the teacher stabbed impatiently on the middle C key before pointing a finger at random,

" You boy!" or "You girl!" standing in turn in a sliding scale of cocky bravado to sheer terror.

"Doe ray me far so la te do!"

It was that simple and that difficult. From nervous grunts to shrill sopranos, the agony of teenage voices laid bare for all to hear. The more we tried to hit the sweet spot the more sweaty and demanding the teacher became. My throat constricted in sympathy with each attempt of my friends, wishing for the session bell to sound over the loud speakers and end our misery. Inevitably my turn came around and hoped the floor would open up and swallow me whole (if only, I would then have also missed the following double Maths lesson ~ more agony). I stood knees a trembling having witnessed the torture of my peers. Palms sweating and with a dry mouth I opened up to sing the first note. Between my lips came a squeak a frog would've been proud of. My face glowed hot and red making my neck itch. I tried again but nothing of note rang out.

"Sit down girl," he thundered. "And don't ever try to sing in public again."

His words stung, my humiliation complete. So mortified I never did sing in public again. Even singing Happy Birthday was an ordeal! Usually lip synced to my friends or family more harmonious voices. I left singing out loud to the shower or car where no-one else could hear. A shame really as Research shows that singing does wonders for our emotional and physical wellbeing. Singing is good for us!

Thinking my voice wasn't that bad (not good but not so bad either) joining a choir was still out of the question ~ no false modesty here, I know my level of singing. I mean, what choir would allow me to squawk along with them? That is until February this year when I came across an article in one of the Saturday newspapers regarding Tuneless Choirs. You didn't have to sing well, be able to read music or have to sing solo. It was about having fun. What's more a new choir was starting up near me in Tonbridge.

"Here's my chance, in for a penny, in for a pound," I thought as I signed up there and then on the Tuneless Choir website, paying my £10 joining fee.

I spent an anxious few days wondering what had I done? What if no-one else turns up? What if only a few turn up? Everyone will hear my awful voice, oh the irony! I needn't have worried as 114 people came on the first night ~ breaking a Tuneless Choir record. Sheena, our leader, was welcoming and friendly and an expectant buzz filled the venue (ironically a modern Church). Deep breath, one, two, three we were off! No hesitation, no shyness! We were singing in public without a care.

Since that night in February we meet fortnightly and the choir continues to flourish. As it turned out we don't sound too bad, though if we hit a bum note or two there is always lots of laughter. Our group is all ages (adults) and mostly women along with a few men (we need more Bass and Tenors, where are you fellas)? The Choir gets invited to sing at public events such as The Kent County Show held in July. There is absolutely no compulsion for anyone to go, only if you want to. Likewise, some sessions are themed ~ we have 80s night coming soon ~ where you can dress up if you want to, or not. Every one does their own thing and that's ok.

As a by the by, if you really can sing and join a Tuneless Choir you will be asked to leave! I know shocking! The point being that a Tuneless Choir is a safe place for those of us who can't stay in tune, fear being singled out for a rotten voice or whatever has previously held us back. So if you CAN sing you know where you can go!

So if like me you love to sing, though others may wish you didn't, look up and find your local group to join. It's £10 to sign up and then £7 per session or pay ahead for each 'term' (and save some money as well). You won't be disappointed and you can indeed sing like no-one is listening!

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