Choirs are now cool
- THE TIMES:
A Monday evening choir practice in London. The ladies smooth their skirts and look expectantly at their choir mistress. She waves a hand and the singing begins. âIâm a drunk! Iâm a drunk! One rum, one vodka, one coke, one smoke . . .â The women, brightly coloured bacchanals in multicoloured capes, stamp their feet as they half-sing, half-shout. âDrink gin, get thin, Iâm a drunk, Iâm a drunk, Iâm a drunk . . .â
Itâs not exactly what one would traditionally expect from a ladiesâ choir. But then, little about ladiesâ choirs is what one would expect any more.
Once the preserve of middle-aged women with fawn footwear and frowsy hair, choirs are suddenly âinâ. Across London, bright young things are as likely to be found Facebooking each other about singing practice as parties, while choirs such as Gaggle, the Funk Chorus and Harmony on Heels gain followers.
The edgiest of all is <b>Gaggle</b>, a choir that has been variously described as âpop-riotâ, âsci-fi riotâ and (perhaps most accurately) âbeyond descriptionâ. Gaggle meets to practise every Monday at the George Tavern in Stepney, East London. In the pubâs artfully artless surroundings (candles, eclectic furniture), its young female members are a formidably fashionable lot.
Speaking to the choirâs members, one senses that no one is more surprised than they are to find themselves at choir practice.
Caroline Green, 29, says: âIâve always liked singing but I would never normally have considered joining a choir. You imagine that theyâll all be 50-year-old ladies in below-the-knee tweed skirts.â
This is a stereotype with which Gareth Malone, of the BBC Two series The Choir, is very familiar. âWhen I first got involved in choirs they felt terribly fusty,â he says. âMost felt as though they had been run in the same way since 1961 â" which they probably had. Singing just wasnât something that young people did; I was always the youngest person by about ten years.â
Gaggleâs members, in contrast, range in age from 21 to 39, with most in their mid to late twenties. Most are young professionals. As Deborah Coughlin, Gaggleâs leader, says: âThey are an educated lot here â" we have teachers, doctors and doctors of literature.â Then she adds, as if embarrassed to be portraying the group as bourgeois: âNot that that matters, of course.â