Songworks Choir Leader, tenor
When Songworks was first approached about taking part in “The Events” I had a feeling that the problem might not be in getting the numbers but in restricting them – and that's exactly how it turned out.
I decided that the only fair way was to draw lots. The basses were an automatic pick and we have a few women who can also sing tenor, but the competition for the altos and sopranos was intense.
However, it worked out beautifully in the end. Other choirs had difficulties with numbers, so Songworks (now happily answering to the name “rent-a-choir”) made up the numbers.
We performed twice as Songworks, then once with Sangstream (also from Edinburgh), once as part of the Edinburgh Mash-up Choir, and once with our neighbours from along the M8, Voices from the City. Each choir leader was given a speech to read about bonobo behaviour, and the choir members also enthusiastically volunteered for other lines of dialogue.
The highlight would have to be the surreal sight of a church hall full of middle-aged middle-class Edinburgh people earnestly singing Grime, as we tackled Dizzee Rascal's “Bonkers” sung a cappella. At the end of the performance, after the choir moved to surround her, the female priest, played by Neve McIntosh, turned to reveal the tears on her face.
Yes, apparently, we were that good.
To be fair, this was not our first brush with fame. We sang at Holy Corner the year Professor Alexander McCall Smith turned on the Christmas lights, and we also presented a joint concert with Musica Aurea of Cuba, whom we will be visiting for a choir festival in December. We have also sung in Rosslyn Chapel, formally known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, but more generally known as “the chapel from The Da Vinci Code”, and we are invited back in the near future.
But the performance at the Traverse, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, was another challenge altogether.
All the people who sang at the Traverse are now anxiously scanning their mobile phones every day, awaiting the urgent message that another choir needs stand-ins. New York, anyone?
Songworks choir, alto
For anyone who never really got over being a stage-struck teenager, this was the opportunity not to miss – to sing at the Traverse Theatre during the Fringe, and what's more, in a David Greig play.
Or, as it turned out, the multiple-award-winning, critically acclaimed and sold-out-every-night David Greig play.
We had some formal rehearsals beforehand, where we met the amazing James who, with a combination of charm and cheek, had us working harder and singing better than we could have imagined, and had a mini-rehearsal before each performance. Each choir sang their own signature piece before moving into the score; ours is a “shape note” piece called “Wester Caputh”, and given that it is based on the Psalm “I to the hills will lift mine eyes” it was extraordinarily moving and remarkably appropriate.
What did come as a bit of a surprise was the Traverse itself. Because it is 2 storeys below ground, the rake on the seating is quite vicious, so instead of gazing over a gently sloping audience, from the stage we looked straight out at what appeared to be a wall of people. That was a little disconcerting.
But we did it, we made it. And for the rest of my life I will be able to say, with perfect honesty, ah yes, I actually made my Fringe debut at the Traverse, in a David Greig play, which won hordes of awards and is going to New York in 2014.
I also did a video interview with a journalist who was collecting opinions from choir members to take back to Hull where “The Events” is scheduled to go next. To the question “What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering to sing in this?”
I answered immediately; “Do it, do it, do it”.
Songsworks is a community choir in Edinburgh that welcomes everyone who wants to sing. For more information, click here.