Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sing, even when you're not winning

My earliest memories are of my mum singing. She sang doing the washing up, she sang doing the hoovering, she sang all the time and it’s something that’s rubbed off on me. Unfortunately I don’t have anything like the voice she had – she had the chance of a recording contract in her late teens but never followed it up; marriage, kids, life got in the way – but the love of it has always been with me.

I stopped singing when I auditioned for my sixth form production of Sweet Charity. I’d never sung on my own in front of anyone except my family and I was beyond nervous. Consequently the noise that came out of my voice was more akin to an elephant passing wind through a badly tuned bagpipe than Shirley Maclaine and I ran from the room, mortified and crippled with embarrassment, vowing never to sing in front of anyone ever again.

Fast forward a decade and the confidence that comes from a few too many teamed with a karaoke night in the local led to me occasionally getting up and belting out a bit of Patsy Cline to the late night stragglers propping up the bar. One of said stragglers was my then partner who, for whatever reason, found my getting up and singing in front of a bunch of drunks incredibly shameful and he’d often storm out in a mood.

Then in 2009 that relationship ended and my love affair with singing was re-kindled. I ventured along to a rehearsal of a new local choir. You didn’t have to audition, or be able to read music, or even think you could sing, perfect for an unconfident, shy and emotionally bruised woman such as I. The joy I felt on hearing and actually being part of a group of people singing together in harmony is one I’d never experienced before – falling in love, sex, getting my degree, becoming an aunty, nothing came close to the all-encompassing feeling of pure uplifting happiness I felt. I left that rehearsal feeling like I’d come home.

As someone with a long-term history of depression I can honestly say singing is good for your soul. No matter how bad I am feeling (and if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know that how I’ve been feeling over the past eight months or so is pretty fucking dreadful) two hours in the comforting, motherly arms of my choir on a Tuesday night is a balm to my aching, frayed mind.

When I sing now I still get the same sense of joy I felt at that first rehearsal even when I am feeling isolated, melancholy and crippled with fear. I’d love to syphon off that feeling, decant it into those old-fashioned blue-glass bottles and give one to everyone I know.


  1. I sing in the car. I sing loud and lustily and put my heart and soul in to it. I always get where I'm going in a better frame of mind than the one I started the journey in.

  2. I think singing, and doing it as part of a group, is what I miss most about losing my faith and no longer going to church. It's spiritual, emotional and aesthetic pleasure in one.

  3. Oh I love to sing! I'm inhibited by people laughing at my singing as a child, which wasn't helped when I sang with the school choir aged 12 and the teacher singled me out as "unable to sing". So it's usually a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, singing along with music turned up loud enough to drown me out. Well, I expect the neighbours might disagree about it drowning me out, but whatever. I love to sing!

  4. Lovely post indeed. Did you hear Gareth Malone on midweek this morning? I'd love to find a choir to sing in again.