I have been living in London for almost 5 years, singing with the LSC for four of those. In that time, so many of the best life experiences I’ve had and new friendships formed have been through this Chorus.
The LSC is a friendly, inclusive community of people from a wide range of backgrounds, united in song, and the expectation that we proactively befriend and welcome new members means it quickly becomes so much more than just a place to go to sing. My favourite Chorus memories are not only from the rehearsals and concerts themselves (though I cannot overstate how fantastic these are) – it’s also what we do when we aren’t singing that I treasure, whether in London or on tour abroad. An impromptu night out in Paris, a trip to a German spa in Baden Baden, an impromptu singalong as we get ready for a concert – all great experiences enabled by this choir, accompanied by lasting friendships. For example, I’m currently on the train home after spending the weekend attending a Chorus friend’s wedding.
In a year that has been almost entirely flat (and, for so many, far worse than flat), the LSC has been a source of energy during the pandemic, a space to steal moments of community and normality.
In this so-called “new normal”, where so many of us have had to embrace exchanging social interaction and excitement for the convenience and flexibility of spending an awful lot of time in our own homes, singing and performing with a choir is a rare opportunity to experience spontaneity and atmosphere, through live performance.
It is unimportant whether or not you’re familiar with the world of classical music or what kind of music you like to listen to at home, because if you like music then you’ll probably like the LSC. In fact, if you aren’t familiar with classical repertoire, then there’s a world of discovery awaiting you. I have been introduced to so much brilliant music through the LSC, from Mahler to Szymanowski to contemporary composer Errolyn Wallen. And, while we generally sing classical music, the choir is often asked to participate in projects from other genres. One of my LSC highlights was the first concert I performed in, which was a charity benefit at the Royal Albert Hall where our role included singing backing for Katie Melua in a performance of The Closest Thing to Crazy, one of my all-time favourite songs.
Perhaps the most memorable concert I’ve been involved in with the choir was a special performance of Howard Goodall’s Never to Forget for bereaved families of NHS workers – the music features only the names of NHS workers who have from Covid during the pandemic. The experience was extremely moving and humbling, and I hope the families in attendance found a moment of solace in the experience.
As I rush across central London, trying to be on time but inevitably sneaking in late at the back of rehearsal a bit frazzled from rushing out of work, there are moments when I imagine how much easier my life would be if I didn’t have LSC commitments eating into my precious free time. Then, we have the first rehearsal with the concert conductor, we go to the venue, introduce the orchestra and soloists into the mix, the atmosphere builds up and the music begins to feel great. Long before the concert itself, I am yet again convinced that yes, this is absolutely worth it.
As well as being great fun and an opportunity to be exposed to new music and new people, being in the LSC has brought fantastic learning opportunities. When else would you have the opportunity to learn to sing in Polish one week, with the help of a specialist language coach, then German the next, then Old Church Slavonic with a Czech accent a few months later? It’s a privilege to work with such a driven group of people, where there’s always an opportunity to improve – the text needs clearer diction, the rhythm more precision, the notes clearer articulation. Whether we’re singing Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 or Jingle Bells, it’s always a chance to learn something new.
Olivia Wilkinson (soprano)