You may know that I’m a keen choral singer. I sing in 3 different choirs currently and have been singing since I was 5 years old. I was lucky enough to be spotted by a great singing teacher at school and stuck with it ever since then. I feel much better in myself when I’m singing compared to times when I don’t if I’m too busy or something. There are so many benefits for me: using my brain in a different way to sight sing and learn new music, the great feeling of having learnt that music and being able to perform it to concert level, as well as working and achieving something together with a group. Singing can be hard work but for me it’s also social and fun. Being able to perform with other musicians and in different venues is also always a treat.
Now, according to contemporary choral composer and musical director Eric Whitacre, (who I wrote about here) the health benefits of singing have been scientifically proven. Whitacre has collaborated with a scientist working in the centre for performance science at the Royal College of Music to monitor stress hormone levels in singers when they are rehearsing and performing. The audience was also monitored. The conclusion was that for singers and audiences, after singing or listening to singing, stress hormone levels went down and all involved felt more relaxed.
“Singing is something that many people inherently feel is good for them and relaxes them. But to actually show biologically (and demonstrate scientifically) that it can reduce stress is very exciting.” – Eric Whitacre
I agree with the study as even at times when I don’t feel like going to rehearsal, I’m always in a better mood after having a good sing! I also know that listening to live or even recorded music relaxes me.
On the subject of choirs, I’m looking forward to Dustin Hoffman’s new film The Choir. Hoffman plays the part of the musical director of a boys choir and the film follows the journey of one troubled boy to becoming the musical academy’s best singer. Dustin Hoffman is in the press at the moment for bemoaning the state of the film industry in terms of money-making being at the top of the list and the lack of time that can be spent on making movies. Hoffman did however say about music,
“I love it more than anything, but I can’t play well enough to make a living out of it. If God tapped me on the shoulder right now and said ‘no more acting, no more directing, but you can be a decent jazz pianist’ … I could never read music gracefully. I don’t have a good ear. I still want to do it. I would love to do it.”
Well I think he could do anything!
I have spent two fun evenings this week singing at London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall as part of the English Chamber Choir for performances of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. We were part of a set up including full orchestra – (strings, wind, brass, percussion sections), 2 solo singers, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and Rick Wakeman – the glitteringly cloaked wizard in charge of us all playing on a variety of NINE keyboards! It was a brilliant experience to be part of such a big show with really incredible musicians. There was a great atmosphere at the shows from the audience and the performers too. It also made a nice change to sing different styles of music.
The shows celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the landmark concept album Journey to the Centre of the Earth and were part of a tour consisting of other show dates around the country.
For the performances I decided to wear my mum’s dress from 1969 (by KATI at Laura Phillips) which I thought was fitting for a 1970s revival show! The photo was taken in the dressing room at the Royal Albert Hall.
Based on the novel by Jules Verne, which also marks its 150th anniversary in 2014, the album is one of the rock era’s landmark achievements – a record that sold 15 million copies and rewrote the rules.
”This is the start of a new Journey” says Rick Wakeman, “the original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible. but after it turned up without warning , we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop it into this tour, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again.”
Rick Wakeman’s 15 million selling Journey To The Centre Of The Earth sits alongside the most successful concept albums of the rock era including The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Its release in 1974 was arguably the high watermark of the progressive rock genre.
Rick’s original album featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, conducted by David Measham.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was first performed and recorded live at London’s Royal Festival Hall in January 1974. Issued three months later, its success defied everyone’s expectations, including those of Wakeman’s label. The album went on to enjoy gold and platinum sales across the globe. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was also nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.
For many years, the original conductor’s score for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was thought
to have been lost, making any attempt to revive this seminal work impossible. However, in 2008,
Wakeman took delivery of a box that arrived out of the blue from Australia. At the bottom, he
found the original Journey To The Centre Of The Earth conductor’s score that had suffered severe
water damage. With the help of conductor Guy Protheroe, (musical director of English Chamber Choir) he repaired and revisited the
compositions and put them in a form that enabled him to celebrate its anniversary in an appropriate manner.
Engaging the Orion Symphony Orchestra (whose members comprise The New
World Symphony Orchestra for the UK tour) and The English Chamber Choir as well as actor Peter
Egan (best known for both his Shakespearean work as well as his role as Paul in the British sitcom
Ever Decreasing Circles) he recorded a new studio version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth at
London’s famed Abbey Road Studios. In November 2012, the expanded work was published as a
limited edition in a fan-pack, together with a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert
programme, and has since became a collector’s item.