For one season, Summer 2018 - Summer 2019, I ran the Song Project in lower east Manhattan. I founded this little community choir with the aim of helping members of the parish where it was based connect to the outside community, which was at that time more or less unprecedented in that church. It worked!
There is something about New Yorkers that is delightfully open to new things: I loved how people would see us singing in the foyer of the building and walk in to find out what was going on, and join on the spot! There was so much pleasure in discovering community choir singing: singing for the joy of it, even for people with no experience whatsoever. The choral music scene is otherwise highly professionalized in the US - or at least in New York City - and I suspect that learning even the basics of music might be the exclusive privilege of the privately educated, unlike music in UK schools (at least in the typical Community Choir 40+ age group). Or was it Gareth Malone's magic that transformed the UK in one fell swoop when he stimulated the new Community Choir wave/craze more than 10 years ago???!
So the Song Project was a tough musical challenge. I really had to start from the bottom up on basic musical, singing and ensemble singing skills. And ... er, well ... another characteristic of New Yorkers is that they will just as spontaneously drop out as they originally joined, so the weekly fluctuation in attendance was huge. That is a challenge and a half!
But sharing music like this with the steady and passionate core Song Project members was one of the highlights of my time in Manhattan, and saying goodbye one of the hardest moments. We had weeks and weeks of fun and warm community, where we knew that we mattered to each other, and experienced that singing together is a source of life.
Thank you Jim, Brenda, Joan, Paul, Jacqueline, Debbie (and all and all): you are the best ...
The year finished with two open sessions for city wide participants called "Souls in Sacred Song", which was an introduction to improvisation and circle singing. After advertising on Meetup we had 20 new participants each time and made some beautiful, unusual, unexpected music together, based on rounds and chordal riffs. The high point was singing over each other like we were offering a song bath. There were laughs and tears, and that to me is always the way to go! A wonderful end to a special project.