When young voices join together in song

Share
Related Topics
I RUSHED home on Monday to take my eldest daughter to the school's first Easter concert at a local church. She had volunteered for the junior choir. It was a duty, rather than a pleasure: I had the slenderest of expectations.

To my consternation, she had been frantically trying to learn the words of the 'Hallelujah Chorus' at breakfast time. 'King of Kings' . . . bite of toast . . . 'Lord of Lords' . . . sip of milk . . . 'And he will reign for ever and e-e-ever'. She said that if only one person went up, instead of down, the whole choir crashed and sounded wrong. She knew, because she had done just that in the last rehearsal.

While Christmas carol concerts and services are a sure-fire hit, with tunes familiar to most of us, and the focus on something as sweet and appealing as a baby, solemn Easter music contemplating the agony of Christ and the cross, laced with triumphalist snatches from the Messiah are much less accessible to a secular, irreligious ear. Not my sort of thing at all, in fact, though I know that for hundreds of thousands of people Easter is not complete without such music.

But, since I am also an obedient parent, thrilled to see my child voluntarily doing something that is not a Nintendo game, I held my peace and hoped for the best. And after a day spent dutifully listening to the continuous news output of Radio 5 Live, I was feeling more than a little ground down.

How many times can you listen to the news of a random stabbing of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in what should be the sanctuary of a classroom? What parent does not wander (just as the masked man wielding a knife did) into schools, outside delivery and collection times, with forgotten lunchboxes, homework, even music for rehearsals? We know they can't be fortified, and it is impossible to protect children from the random, occasional madnesses of life.

With these uneasy thoughts, I settled into my pew, alongside other mothers. My expectations were low. I was therefore quite unprepared for one of the most uplifting evenings I have ever experienced. I have always thought that, should I need detoxifying from daily urban life, I would check into a health farm and sip camomile tea between reflexology sessions, but an amateur choral concert seemed to fulfil just that role, in 90 minutes flat. The programme, which included 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' and 'For the Beauty of the Earth', as well as a more serious attempt at Faure's Requiem and snatches from the Messiah, was extraordinarily cheering.

I'm not sure if it was a spiritually uplifting experience, but it certainly lifted my spirits for the rest of the week. It was also clear that the children taking part glowed with the pleasure of doing something so special. It was not a perfect, awe-inspiring Albert Hall production. There were a few wrong notes and wobbles. But the performance had the very human charm that comes from children and teachers doing their best, with enthusiasm. And, of course, if your child is there singing his or her heart out and it is coming out wonderfully well, then any critical faculties you retain are swamped with pride.

Sitting in the Indian restaurant afterwards, refreshing my daughter with a tandoori chicken, I started to ponder the value of shared activities, and of how varied they might be. In the past few weeks I have started to worry about the consensus growing up around the view that if only we force competitive team games and traditional sports into the educational curriculum, perhaps by making them compulsory, our national character and not just our physiques can be rebuilt.

But surely games are only one small part of education and character building. For those who really enjoy a tough game of rugby, cricket, netball or hockey, they are fine activities. But muscular games are far too narrow a definition of worthwhile communal activity. Surely singing in choirs, an activity that requires no prior knowledge of music or musical instruments, is just as valuable in instilling discipline and a sense of shared aims. School plays, with the organisation, practice and teamwork needed, are equally testing. So is the huge variety of school orchestras that flourish despite the vicious pressure on budgets. Perhaps the secret is that an a la carte approach will always be more pleasurable than something foisted on us for our own good.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own