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  • Posted on December 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I love being on vacation!  This break between winter holidays gives me opportunities to sleep in, cook some really good food, read and watch some weeknight TV that I otherwise never see.  Over the last 2 weeks, I stumbled upon “BBC 2:  The Choir:  Sing while you work, with Gareth Malone.”  I’m hooked!  I now realize I only saw the final 2 episodes in a series of 8.  I’m going to have to watch the rest on line!  I think I saw it on TVO, but online it’s listed as USA broadcast.

Gareth, a choir director of several years of choir programming on BBC, organized 5 choirs in disparate work places.  One is a City Council (Birmingham, UK), a Fire and Rescue Service (Chestershire, UK), Sainsbury, a supermarket giant, Citi, a bank, and P&O Ferries, a cross channel service with British and French employees.

These workplace choirs are unlikely gatherings, including some who haven’t sung before!  The series is a “reality TV” format, with competitions and eliminations over a 6 month period.  Finally, one choir wins the best choir title, singing at Ely Cathedral with a boys choir in front of a congregation of 1200 people.  The top three choirs sing a piece written especially for the occasion and composed by one of the three judges!  Talk about pressure!

I identified in different ways with each of the choirs and loved watching each one become a community, sharing challenges, music, overcoming fear, and pushing themselves to really connect with each other so that their sound reflected that unity.  In one episode, I was not surprised that the Fire and Rescue Service group was able to pull off being best choir, even though all the groups had to sing Classical (opera) music, unfamiliar to most of them.  The Fire and Rescue folks live and work together, giving their all, putting their life on the line for each other and for their community every day.  That sort of deep connection soared through their singing.  The Citi bankers had more experience with classical music, given their backgrounds, but they were stiff and disconnected from each other and their sound reflected that disjointedness.

I won’t give away the final winners, but the singing went from terrible and out of tune to glorious and magnificent.  One choir might do well with one challenge (pop music, gospel, classical) while another choir would succeed with a different genre. Each group grew so much through the experience.  One woman said she knows this sounds like a cliché, but  for her, this choir was life-changing, and she learned she really could sing, with confidence!

Sing Out Detroit has a similar sense of community.  Like Fire and Rescue Service, we have faced adversity both alone and together.  Our common experiences and concerns about being an LGBT&S (for straight!) choir, we excel in accepting other’s differences, blending together well, yet each of us has our uniqueness celebrated.  As I considered rejoining this choir last summer, Denise Joseph told me “this is a choir with a lot of love.”  And how!  I used to sing just for the experience of singing, but I look forward to the hugs and humor now.

Here’s to new members auditioning on January 19 and joining Sing Out Detroit.  New members will increase our numbers, but also the love, the sound and the talent of our wonderful choir.  To be properly inspired before we start up for the Spring 2016 season, check out up “The Choir, Sing While You Work” on the Internet or YouTube.  It’s great stuff!

Christine Cantrell