Our member, Just Sing! is a fun, friendly and fabulously relaxed community choir based in Stevenage. Their ethos is one very much of inclusion, as there are no auditions and you don’t need to be able to read music or have any experience to join. Everything is taught ‘by ear’ so no one is at a disadvantage, even if they’ve never sung before and don’t read music. Fees are kept deliberately low, and special arrangements can be made for those who need help.
The group sings all kinds of songs, from classical to pop, from folk to rock, as well as show tunes and favourites from musicals. Everyone’s tastes are covered, and the choir have a wide repertoire, from classics like Tallis’ Canon to Fix You by Coldplay. Members also benefit from lessons all about breathing and vocal technique from their accomplished Musical Director, Penny Manser. The idea is to enjoy improving your singing whilst meeting new people and building confidence at the same time.
Just Sing! began in Autumn 2009, (then known as Singing for the Terrified) after the library staff at East and North Herts NHS Trust saw the BBC’s The Choir with Gareth Malone, and were inspired to organise a singing event of their own. Aware that many people would like to sing, but are too nervous to join an established choir (usually because they can’t read music or haven’t sung before), the event was intended for anyone who wanted to sing regardless of whether or not they had any experience.
Their first singing session as a group took place in April 2010, with Michael Price directing around 35 people to sing Ticket to Ride by the Beatles, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon. Michael is a composer and music editor who works on film and TV scores, most famously for the BBC TV series “Sherlock”. The day was such a success that the group has grown and grown ever since, now boasting 60 members!
The choir’s first public performance was at David’s Bookshop Christmas Fayre, in Letchworth in November 2010, and since then they have performed at the Bennington Lordship, Anglesey Abbey, Wimpole Hall and the Hatfield Galleria.
Just Sing! now meet for rehearsals every Thursday during term time with Musical Director Penny Manser, and are always delighted to welcome new members. There are opportunities for choir members to sing solos or duets at concerts, but for those who are less confident every new member is given a ‘buddy’ from the existing members to welcome them and help them get into the swing of things.
This year is set to be the most exciting yet for Just Sing! as the choir is taking part in a new project with Letchworth based composer Alison Wrenn. During the Summer they will be recording and performing 50 minutes of new songs for a community choirs songbook project called Sing For Our Planet. Six specially chosen composers will also be liaising with local community choirs, culminating in a massed choirs performance in the Summer of 2015.
New members are always heartily welcomed to Just Sing! and you can go along to the community hall at North Herts College on Monkswood Way in Stevenage to try your first session for free….the rehearsal schedule can be found on the Just Sing! website here. Also look out for updates on the website for their “Singers’ Night” in April, as well as upcoming themed workshops such as African Gospel and “Abbatastic”!
And if that’s not enough to convince you, why not have a look at some of the videos made by choir members who wanted to share the experiences with the choir?