Manchester Made.

So, today was the first official rehearsal of the guerilla choir. People and music in abundance. I was happy to see lots of new faces – a few I recognised from the initial workshop that I attended, but most of them were new (to me, anyway). I loved the mix of people. And there were no introductions needed apart from names – getting together to sing is a better ice breaker than a really fat penguin.

Bad joke, I know. But it illustrates my point. There was no awkwardness in the room as we drifted in one by one, everyone making a beeline for the tea, coffee and biscuits provided by the museum’s lovely Anna Bunney. The true way to a person’s heart is, after all, through a good brew. We sat sipping hot drinks from travel mugs and chatting until it was time to warm up. It mostly consisted of making funny faces at each other.

After the all important funny-face-making came the breathing exercises, and then a couple of things to try and find our ideal vocal range. We relaxed into the room, into each other. And then it was time to sing.

Truth be told, Boff really put us through our paces, but everyone kept up. The first song was one we had worked on in the initial workshop, many people remembering the tune and the lyrics, and even *gasp* the harmonies. We got all the way through that one. Which, when some people were doing it for the first time, there are four verses, consistent two part harmonies and a lot of laughter in the room, is no mean feat. It’s a lot of fun, this first song. Well, first in that it’s the first one we are learning. I believe it comes last in the event. But don’t quote me on it.

By the time we got to the tea break, my vocal chords were well and truly stretched. And I’m sure everyone else’s were as well – nobody was singing quietly, that’s for sure. You could probably hear us all the way down with the dinosaurs.

Once everyone was brewed and biscuited, we started a new song written by Dan and Boff. It’s beautiful. Honestly. If I’m allowed to be slightly technical for a minute (and I mean slightly), it’s written in the minor key, which gives it a sense of weight, and the rhythm is a mix of gospel and – dare I say it – techno? The lyrics came from an exercise done in the first workshop, where we were sent into the Manchester gallery to find expressions of wonder. The phrases we returned with were somehow crafted into this song, which I still have in my head now. It’s a bit annoying, actually. In the best of ways. Although we only did the chorus of this one, it is a chorus with a four-part harmony that took a while to get right, but when we did… You could feel it. You could feel the power of the music, charged with the vocal energy of everyone in the room.

I loved the way that everyone threw themselves into learning and singing the songs. Especially the people organising the project. There was no divide between us and them – no ‘us’ and ‘them’ at all really. Josh, Dan, Sarah and Anna all joined in with the singing, standing in the circle with us, and Boff led us patiently and (I like to think) proudly from the middle. He can hit some disturbingly high notes. In a good way.

There is something rather incredible about singing in a group. You get the sense that you’re doing something people have been doing for years, celebrating with the power of the voice, joining together in a moment of complete harmony both with vocals and something else entirely. Voices flew, we smiled, we stamped and clapped and laughed and it all clicked into place. Creating a community sometimes sounds like an impossible task. But all we had to do was sing.

It’s at points like this, sat at home writing about the day, that I feel part of something great. And not just great in a meaningful way. But great in a fun and inspiring way. Definitely fun. Rehearsals start at half six tomorrow night, and even though I’ll probably be rocking up in my work uniform, I cannot wait. Apparently there’s someone filming. I’ll be waiting in my trailer.

Funny. Thinking about it, I can only find one word to describe the feeling in my chest when we hit that four-part harmony. Wonder. It’s like they planned it all along…

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