Thursday, November 23, 2006

Old People's Choir, young@heart

Did you see that programme last night? It was so wonderful, this choir of people who were really ancient, going off to sing rock cover versions to prisoners and making these hard guys weep with emotion. The high point was this little old lady and little old man singing 'I Feel Good' to a packed theatre. And they were enjoying themselves so much! Two of the old fellas died during the rehearsals, but the band carried on in their memory; there was one very poignant scene where the best friend of one of them sang a solo, his last ever with the choir, and you could hear his little air pump thing (he'd had a heart attack) whooshing gently in the background. It was brilliant, and their musical director was amazing; they were all a bit scared of him because he got so annoyed when they forgot the words. All the way through I was thinking, 'I WANT TO DO THAT!'. I'd always wanted to do songwriting with elders, and the closest I got was recording a demo with an old-people's singing group who wanted to get gigs in retirement homes; they had a mad Hindu priest accompanying them on electric piano, with a smiley smile that was so smiley it was scary, and I had to do a lot of takes because they kept booting the mike stands and rustling their sheet music mid-song. We got there in the end though; I still have the tapes somewhere!
It got me to thinking about what singing does for people, and I thought back to my frightening primary school, whose teachers beat us and shook us , and where our toilets were outside and housed the largest and slimiest snails you've ever seen. But every morning, before we went into our classrooms and shook with fear in case it was our turn, the school got together and sang a hymn. It was the most fantastic freedom, in spite of the fact that the rollickin' piano was being played by the nastiest teacher of all, Mrs Herdman (she had a 'female friend' called Mrs Oddie living in her loft, believe it or not!). But we, the schoolchildren, with our snotty noses, bad breath and dirty fingernails, became a sort of music mob and our voices escaped through the roof into outer space, even though we were physically imprisoned all day with all that violence. Sometimes I think that singing is manufactured out of anger, somehow converted from a destructive emotion, from something ugly into a free and lovely expression of self.


Post a Comment

<< Home