Monday 27 January 2014

We are told that it is very beneficial for a child to learn to play a musical instrument and to learn to read music at a young age. Recent studies have shown that this helps children do well in other areas of their education. Some believe this is because it ‘stretches’ the child and makes them more receptive to learning in general. Some would say it encourages ‘the little grey cells’ to grow.

Others would say that by achieving a level of competence as a musician, the child’s confidence in learning is given a boost and they are given a headstart when presented with other new subjects to learn.

Some children can be seen to have a real interest in making music at a very early age . Some are born into musical families and are surrounded by music making from birth. Some are just inspired by an early experience  of seeing someone play or sing beautifully.  Hopefully most children will have been sung to as babies and toddlers, or had a fun time at playgroup dancing and singing with their friends.

For some, the desire to create music and to communicate through music seems to come from some deep personal wellspring that nothing can stop. Some of our greatest musicians have had to overcome enormous opposition to pursue their dream.

Nevertheless, although It sounds obvious, it has to be said that when it comes to the point of taking lessons, it won’t work unless the child themselves wants to do it. Most children will.

Music is a language. You learn to read it by learning the words, signs, and symbols by which it is written down. Just as in learning to read books, you need to be really sure of your alphabet before going on to higher things, so you need to be really sure the basic signs and symbols of musical language are thoroughly understood as lessons proceed.

It is a language of sound and part of the learning is by using one’s ears. Some musicians are very skilled at this and rely on this facility for their whole lives and will always prefer to ‘play by ear’ and rather avoid  the written page.

The importance of developing a musical ‘ear’ cannot be underestimated. Your teacher will include this as an important part of the learning process.

However, some doors will always remain closed if the person does not learn to read the written page. It will not be a problem to do so, if you always take care to make sure every sign, every dot, every symbol, every word is thoroughly understood and the music drilled either by singing or playing or both.

Then practice makes perfect. Noone would pretend that it doesn’t take a lot of practice to be an excellent musician, but this way it will always be fun!

2013 was a busy year!
The Greenstede Singers won a trophy at the East Grinstead Music Festival and sang a May concert at the Peredur Arts Centre. They teamed up with Choirpower for a Christmas concert  at Chequermead Arts Centre. they sang a very successful concert in Dormansland Parish Church, which raised over £1200 for Action Medical Research. We were delighted to welcome harpist, Lizzie Peacock, as our soloist for the latter concert.
We rounded the year off with carols at Standen - the hot drinks and mince pies were great!!

Choirpower sang a very successful (if very hot!) summer concert at Chequermead. In the autumn we joined up with other artists in Eastbourne, raisng money for the local theatre. We ended the term in style at Chequermead, with a Christmas concert, while supporting local Mayoral and Rotary Club charities with carol singing in the High Street and Meridian Hall.

Congratulations to all last year's exam students! 100% pass rate on all practical and theory exams.
Both Grade 8 ABRSM singers passed with Merit grades.
All 9 Music theatre candidates passed with Distinction, including two Grade 8's.

We are looking forward to Choirpower's Easter Concert on April 5th at Peredur Arts Centre. Easter eggs and Easter bonnets to the fore!
The Greenstede singers will be presenting a programme of partsongs for the Siroptimist Society on May 10th in Trinity Methodist church. All welcome.

Music is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing’ – wise words from one of our great Elizabethan composers over 400 years ago.

Why is it so good a thing? We know of its health-giving effects - using the full stretch of the lungs, oxygenating the system, improving posture, stimulating the brain.

We also know of the life enhancing  effect of meeting with other people, enjoying the social interaction of life in a choir.

William Byrd grew up in an age where singing was part of your everyday entertainment. After dinner, the part books would be brought out and distributed amongst the guests or family members and each would sing their part in the madrigals or partsongs of the day. If you were lucky enough to have a lutenist or viol (predecessor to the violin)player among your company, they would just join in and all would sing and play together. We think of it now as a golden age of music and art and we have a wealth of material from that time still being sung today by choirs and groups across the world.

In our own day, we are experiencing a resurgence of interest in choirs and singing, through our TV channels. Choral singing is again becoming a national sport!

For the lucky few, having a beautiful voice and winning a talent show can be the fast-track doorway to untold fame and riches.

For many people, taking the time to exercise and train the voice can lead to a lifetime of pleasure singing in the many amateur, semi-professional and professional choirs that we have here in the UK.

The pleasures are many. There is the sheer delight of finding you have and can use a voice, feeling it grow and strengthen as you use it more and more.

There is the pleasure of setting a target, working for it and attaining it in performance.

And of course everyone loves applause and admiration.

It can be a welcome break from the working day. It’s not hard to find a city choir meeting at lunchtimes for hardworking business men to relax and enjoy.

We have all enjoyed listening to those lovely Welsh Male Voice Choirs, many of whose members spent their working day far underground, digging coal. What a joy and relief singing must have been to them.

But for me, the most rewarding thing about getting people together to sing is that it is a great ‘leveller’.

Looking along the lines of singers you will find Bank Managers next to bricklayers, surgeons and shop assistants, high flying sales people and busy stay-at-home mothers. There is no thought as to what religious or political beliefs you hold. Noone cares how big your bank balance is or whether you go home to a bed-sit or a mansion.

You are there, as a group to make beautiful music – and in doing so, you, and the audience sharing the musical experience, are uplifted, out of a world of friction and dissent to a world of pure beauty.

To me that is the main message behind the words of William Byrd, a man who knew well the social, religious and political difficulties of his day and yet survived them all  - due in no small part, I am sure , to the power of his music and getting people together to sing.