The Seven Choirs Doing Something Different in Scotland
Below Cole Bendall, Teaching Fellow in Music, highlights some of the top choirs in the country (including one you can join no matter where you are!) and lets us know about Music Short Courses in January.
Choirs are for Everyone
I know what you're thinking - here's that choir guy talking about choirs again...
Yes, I know you guys meet every week.
Oh, you sing concerts?
Your members are HOW old?! And THAT’S the music you’re singing?...
It’s perhaps no wonder that choirs are often associated with a certain demographic, with a certain style of music and are seen as stuffy and restrictive. Worse, when they do attempt to do something a little more modern, it can appear restrained at best and cringeworthy at worst!
Through my research and practice I reconsider what role choirs and choral music play in society – why do we want to sing together and how does music help us to express ourselves? Group singing has long been linked to improved health and wellbeing as well as providing a sense of togetherness so the merits of making music together are clear and I advocate for making choirs a part of that.
To celebrate my refreshed Term 2 Great Choral Masterpieces Short Course (in which we'll consider the filthiest of Renaissance madrigals, the imbalance of gender and representation in choral music as well as the choral music in TV and film epics such as Star Wars and Chernobyl), I'm profiling some of Scotland’s choirs doing something just that little bit different.
Take a look below to find out more...
Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus
Part symphonic choir, part chamber ensemble, this top-shelf group has a diverse CV stretching from singing in ballets for Carlos Acosta, to singing in raining barns in Cambo, to singing at the BBC Proms. Open by audition, the choir meets weekly in Edinburgh on Mondays.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus
One week, you could be singing the Brahms Requiem. The next, you’re singing brand new music written by some of Scotland’s finest up and coming composers. The next, you’re singing the soundtrack to Amadeus or The Snowman and working with Scotland’s national symphony orchestra. Rather good, I’d say. Open by audition, the choir meets weekly in Edinburgh on Mondays.
I may be bias but I’m proud of what these guys do. This auditioned chamber choir has done projects for the National Libraries of Scotland, semi-staged dramatisations of death, and concerts for kids. Open by audition, runs individual projects.
Directed by the absolutely brilliant musician, Ellen Smith, Glasgow’s queer choir is a safe, inclusive welcoming space for all members of the queer community and allies. From Mamma Mia to Swahili folk song, there is something for everyone here.
Don’t let the name scare you, you won’t be arrested for joining this unaccompanied community choir. Founded in 2008 by members of the Lothian and Borders Police force yet you don’t need to be linked with the police to join. Fantastic arrangements of all sorts of music and brilliant contemporary medleys led by the effervescent Michael Longden. Open to all, meeting on Sundays in Edinburgh.
Dunbar’s youth choir, their model derives from Hungarian music education methods which embraces inclusive activity, building musicianship and singing at community events and showcases. Various choirs meeting in Dunbar, Tuesdays in term time.
Yep, some of us have heard of virtual choirs in the pandemic. Some have sung with a few. Some of us have even given conference presentations on them. This is the real deal. Stay at Home Choir provides unique opportunities both to learn online with amazing professional musicians from all over the world and then film yourself singing with them wherever you are in the world. A truly international choir. Open to all, meetings ad-hoc depending on project.
Spark your Passion
If this has inspired you to learn more, there are a number of music courses running in January 2023. Book now to secure your place!
Great Choral Masterpieces Short Course
Cole Bendall is Course Organiser and Teaching Fellow in Music at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Open Learning and a PhD candidate in Music at the Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh. He is active as a conductor, singer and writer. You can learn more about Cole and his work here.