The start of Evolution

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do more than I currently do with BeVox. I love everything we do with the choir, but there are natural limitations to the musical standards that it’s┬ápossible to achieve with a non-auditioned, amateur community choir. A few years ago, I thought the answer was to start a separate, professional ensemble. I tried that for a year, and it didn’t work out. Ever since, I’ve been trying out different ideas in my head about how I could scratch this musical itch. It was only at the beginning of this year that I realised why I couldn’t find an answer – I was looking at the problem from the wrong angle. If I wanted to work on higher musical standards, I needed to do that within the context of BeVox, not separately from it. I needed to work out how to do that without compromising on the open-access nature of the choir, as it’s so important for BeVox to remain open and welcoming to those who may not have sung before. At the same time, there was a real opportunity to offer something more to those people who were ready to take the next step – to begin a gradual process that would improve the musical standards of the whole choir by offering additional training and insights to those who wanted them, and were ready for them. It was time for Evolution.

It took a while to work out exactly how this process would work, and as with every transformative process, it’s still a work in progress. It has already changed in response to feedback from within the choir. One of the most important aspects of what we’re trying to achieve is that it mustn’t create an “us and them” situation, where people who aren’t part of Evolution feel like they’re missing out or being left behind. Everything we do with Evolution needs to be for the good of the whole choir, not just the people involved in Evolution. There are lots of things we’ve put in place to make sure this happens – not least, the process of teaching more advanced techniques and skills to the Evolution group will help me develop my ability to teach at this level, which I can then start to feed into the choir as a whole. The whole thing is very much about learning together, and sharing the fruits of that learning with everyone. As the idea has grown over the last few months, I’ve been more and more excited about it. Yesterday, we held our initial workshop – the first time people could try out what we’re offering with Evolution, see if it was something they wanted, and see if they were ready to work at this more focussed intensity. The results were thrilling.

We had nearly sixty singers at the workshop – more than I’d initially thought would be interested, and that was exciting in itself. A lot of them were very nervous about what they’d be asked to do. I’d asked everyone to learn and memorise three songs specifically for the workshop, so we could focus just on the techniques I wanted to teach, and not spend time learning the notes. People were aware that, if I didn’t think they were ready for Evolution, they might not “get in”, and for some people that was a real worry. No-one needed to worry though – it became clear during the course of the workshop that everyone there was ready to work at the level I was expecting, so I was able to let everyone know on the spot that they could be a part of Evolution if they chose to. I think the sense of relief in the room at that point was palpable!

It was really rewarding to be able to focus on some detailed bits of technique during the workshop. We took the songs to a new level, even just within a single afternoon. It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to identify what further work we can do – even though the songs we worked on became a lot stronger during the workshop, I could see just how much stronger they could still become. I’m really excited about developing the content of the coming sessions so we can really hone those songs, and our collective technique, to the point that they’ve achieved their full potential. It’s going to be an amazing journey, and I’m absolutely buzzing about taking the next step.