What makes you think that you can sing?

Arlene Adair shares her experiences of being a singer, performing in Women sing East and rehearsing for the world premiere of our community opera We are Shadows:

“Do you honestly think that you can sing?” The words of my eldest, my first born, daughter pierced my brain bringing what I believed to be the “song of a nightingale” to an abrupt and premature end!  Children can be so cruel and, some may say, truthful!

I had always considered my singing voice to be, at least, worthy of airing at home.  Perhaps I was just a bit rusty!  Perhaps, on the other hand, my parents had been very loving, tolerant and tone-deaf!

“Join a choir, a women’s choir, Women sing East,” the kind words of a concerned colleague rang happily in my ears.  She knew that I had observed with nostalgic jealousy my youngest daughter, my fourth and last born, singing like an angel with the Hackney Borough Youth Choir.  Could it be that simple for me to join Women sing East?  What about my voice?

So, in September 2010 “stepping gaily arm-in-arm” with a fellow Scot (a bonnie wee lassie with blonde curls and an awfully good voice!) I tentatively approached the assembled throng of women confidently waiting in the foyer of the Brady Arts Centre.   We were “the new girls”.  Were there any other “new girls”?  Who knows?

The arrival of the director Laka D brought with it a big warm cosy welcome like a soft tartan blanket (not a horrible old scratchy one!).  “New girls” or not we were part of a 40-strong smiling, laughing, rocking, popping, madrigal women’s choir.   This all happened within two hours of leaving my six strong family at the kitchen table.  This was heaven!  Within eight months, we had performed two public performances and were feeling very happy.

Today, as I rehearse with the chorus of We are Shadows, an opera in pieces, I am reminded of a time when I could only dream of singing opera.   Twenty eight years ago, I was a costume maker in the wardrobe department of Scottish Opera. With a mouth full of dressmakers’ pins I could only hum along  as I listened  in awe to singers rehearsing pieces by Mozart, Puccini, Bizet and many other wonderful composers.

So, as I strive to reach the high notes of this world premiere opera, the words of my daughter haunt me “Do you honestly think you can sing?”  The simple answer is, “I really do not know but, so far, nobody has asked me to mime!”

Arlene Adair

Always wanted to sing? Why not join one of our community choirs! For more information click here. We are also looking for local people to perform as part of We are Shadows. Email cathy.birch@spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk or give us a call on 020 7377 0287 for more information.

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