CEO Blog: Stepping out of my comfort zone at the Royal Albert Hall!

I am singing from crib cards I have made of the songs we will be singing at the Royal Albert Hall this Saturday.  In bed I sing myself to sleep.

I moved from Bristol to Caldicot over the bridge 2 years ago. I have to say the bird songs are much better in Caldicot, all kinds of song birds rather than the sea gulls and black birds that dominate the pigeons in Bristol. We also have bees and the smell of apple and cherry blossoms and cut grass.

Andy Friedman, CEO of PARNI go to the gym regularly at the community centre in the middle of Caldicot. One day I noticed a building next door called Choir Hall. At first I thought this might be a Welsh term for some sort of club. However, after a while I noticed some fellows going in and decided to follow them to assuage my curiosity. They were very friendly and asked if I wanted to listen to them, which I did and was immediately enchanted by their sound. So I signed up.

The Caldicot Male Voice Choir is 80 strong. We practice twice a week which is a big commitment, one I often have to forgo when I am in London late.

I struggle with the words. The repertoire is huge and around half the songs are in Welsh. This is a real challenge, but it is comforting to be one among many.

The day after tomorrow we are heading to London to sing with a dozen other choirs from Wales at the Royal Albert Hall. This is daunting as the programme for the evening is very long: 20 songs for 1000 voices.

The popularity of choirs in Wales, and indeed in the UK in general, is surprising. Now that I am in a choir I keep hearing of other choirs in other places. It seems that in Wales at least pretty much every town, village and hamlet has a choir. This represents an enormous amount of volunteer effort. The Caldicot Male Voice Choir runs its Choir Hall entirely on volunteer effort. Wedding receptions, birthday parties, and blood donor clinics are catered for, with choir members setting up and cleaning up, serving behind the bar, and arranging other catering. It is a serious community enterprise.

I do not generally blog about personal things but this seems wider than personal somehow. It will be difficult performing without my usual PowerPoint crutch and crib cards are only for practice sessions. Fortunately memorising songs is easier than prose. It seems like you can rely on muscles in your head to carry you through without having to imagine what you are singing. Go with the force. Hopefully on Saturday night the Force will be with me (and the rest of the 1000).

Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN

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