The Choir Whisperer

The Choir Whisperer

My journey with The Events started way back in freezing cold February when Nick Williams, Executive Director, approached me to see if I was interested in working with ATC on a new venture involving a "few" choirs…

Eight months later and to date we have programmed 80 choirs at 10 different venues across the UK, which will see us working with over 2000 singers by the end of November. Yes Nick, more than just a few. But I can’t thank you and Team ATC enough for giving me this wonderful opportunity to connect with some extraordinary individuals who have gone on to become The Events choir alumni.

The Events has enabled me to stretch my Learning and Participation legs again, after a year’s break, in an incredibly open and creative environment. Artistic Director Rami Gray’s way of working is all inclusive and to sit alongside him and his expert team, to have my opinion asked for and appreciated, was refreshing. In return I have done my best to programme a variety of choirs – everything from folk to chamber to gospel to male voice to female barbershop.

The choir really is the heart of the play. They are an audience, a Greek chorus, an individual voice and a community all in one. It’s strange but I feel that every night the choir walks on stage they bring with them a new energy which seems to alter the play in a small but very significant way. Something which I think we would all agree on was how unexpected this effect was at first, but now we all look forward to seeing what will unfurl once the choir starts to sing.

Programming choirs for The Events during the run at The Traverse during the Edinburgh Fringe was no mean feat. But we managed it and we found some wonderful choirs from Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Outer Hebrides, Soweto and the US. Of course, this was greatly helped by the wonder that is James Slimings, a musical master and choir wrangler extraordinaire!

A real highlight for me during the mad old month of August was my encounter with the Western Connecticut State University. Flicking through the Fringe guide, looking for potential groups we could work with, I found myself repeatedly drawn to WCSU who were performing ‘Lysistrata the Rock and Roll Musical’ at the Gilded Balloon. With a great title, and loving that their blurb suggested I would find “original music, dance, puppetry and…battle scenes”, I was won over. I saw the show, loved it and found another Sal – their Artistic Director, Sal Trapani – who within seconds was up for WCSU being a part of The Events. Amazing.  I love the Edinburgh Fringe for precisely this sort of dynamic happening. The group threw themselves into it and joined in our rehearsal process - which was incredibly generous, especially considering they had their own show to perform and publicise. They performed brilliantly.

Perhaps the most extraordinary finding for me and for the ATC team was when we discovered post show that the group from WCSU were actually much more connected to The Events than we could ever have imagined. Western Connecticut University is a mere 5 miles from Newtown where the horrific and devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings took place in December 2012. An event which altered their community forever and one which sadly touched WCSU’s performing arts department, with a member of their faculty losing a loved one on that day. Sal and the brilliant young people from WCSU were so open about their connection to The Events and articulated their grief and memories in the most extraordinary way.   I’m so pleased we found them and that they said yes and that they had such a good time doing the play. Thank you Western Connecticut State University.

Of course, really, it is very wrong of me to single out one particular choir when every choir we have worked (and will continue to work with) has been so supportive of the project right from the word go. Brilliant and fantastic, all of you. Thank you too to the Choir of Thespis for their time during crazy rehearsals, to  the Morris Folk Choir for jumping in at the deep end for the open dress and to Sylvia Levete and Mark Jones from Holt Festival for all their help in shaping how we now work with choirs. Sylvia, you are a trooper and a brilliant Bonobo!

Well, that’s enough from me.

Apart from to say that it was ace to win a Fringe First (yahoooo!) and it was amazing to win the Carol Tambor Award (whoooop) but what I look forward to now is seeing where The Events is going to go. It is an extraordinary play which draws extraordinary choirs.

And if you haven’t guessed already. I love it.

Sally Christopher
Choir Coordinator, ATC