From the current issue of Choir & Organ
AFTER A FASHION
It’s not so long ago that in parts of Britain singing in a choir was regarded by many as, well, a little bit odd – it was definitely not a mainstream activity. Certainly the English, with the exception of on the football pitch, have tended to be rather embarrassed about singing, mumbling through hymns at weddings and funerals, and seemingly nursing a Hoffnung-inspired caricature of choirs peopled by warbling blue-rinse women and show-off men – all very entertaining, but by no means to be taken seriously, and certainly not what any self-respecting, let alone young person would wish to associate with.So it was with considerable delight that I attended the Arts Foundation Awards in January for the presentation of their first ever award in Choral Conducting. Bob Chilcott, one of the judges, welcomed the award, pointing out that it signified an exciting change in attitude – conducting awards are usually given in the orchestral field. But a combination of exceptional heights of attainment in the choral field, increased training for choral conductors at every level up to Master’s in colleges and conservatoires, and most recently, increased positive media coverage and the ‘Gareth Malone’ factor has led to choirs becoming fashionable, evidenced not least by the number of community choirs that have sprung up in the last decade. My pleasure was increased on seeing the high standards of all four young conductors shortlisted for the award, and even more by the fact that it was given in the context of awards for other, non-musical art forms: when we’re focused on what we’re doing, we can forget we’re part of a bigger, fomenting arts forum, all sparking off each other and contributing towards creative change.