Music holds a very special place in our individual lives tracking our early years and into adulthood. On a personal level music supports us, lifts us up, makes us cry and even disgusts us as composers aim to carve out a reaction. Internet technology has opened up access to music and means that individuals can explore independent music free of a record label noose, making music more meaningful and personalised. The ability to make music is ever more accessible in this digital age with apps flying at us every second encouraging an extension of ourselves. It seems anyone can make music.
Making music magnifies the feeling of simply listening and is a rewarding treat for the investment of ourselves into the musical cooking pot. So imagine the feeling of making music ‘together’ in a generation where people don’t speak to each other enough, take their phones to bed with them and live their lives through social media.
The fight back is ‘making music in the community’. One such project, a performance of ‘Ahoy’ was brought about by a community champion based in Shropshire. Choirmaster, Peter Shone, who lives in the small rural village of Ashley has always felt that music holds the key to a positive outlook. ‘When you sing together you can momentarily strip away life’s complications, so it pays off to sing within the community as often as possible’. Peter rallied round community members and the local primary school, Hugo Meynell, in the second of such events, the first being a production of ‘The Great Fire of London’ coinciding with the opening of a new community fire station and 350 years since the tragedy. The most recent performance of ‘Ahoy’ brought overflowing excitement for the school children, charmed by the attention of both the community choir and by professional musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music (Geth Griffiths, Oli Cox), Your Space Music Lessons (Jordan Taylor, Craig Bradley) and local jazz pianist and composer Dave McGarry. The resulting mix raised the quality of the musical experience and opened up the eyes, ears and aspirations of children and adults.
The community choir is made up of mostly retired professionals who find that singing makes a positive, even healing difference in their lives. Led by Peter, the choir asked the school to join with them in practising and rehearsing for the event that culminated in a superb amateur performance of ‘Ahoy’ by Alexander L’Estrange in March this year.
The block of sound from the children and the school’s brilliant soloists coupled with smiles all around show it’s absolute worth. Steve Mitchell Head at Hugo Meynell said ‘for these children to be at the heart of community music is a wonderful experience for them, they really engage in togetherness and their talent has an opportunity to shine through.’
The most astounding aspect is the spectrum of ages and abilities that events like this can span and appeal to, for those seeking an escape from digital bombardment, where simple human interaction is enough.
Of course it needs boundless, energetic community champions for the glue to stick together (and more of them) but in the cloudiness of digital living setting in motion learning and performing music is evidently wholly beneficial. But most of all, definitely, music is best experienced with other people.