There was no vision before the choir began as a choir. It emerged slowly and unintentionally. Beginnings are important and so are endings. It is not absolutely clear exactly when the choir began as a choir; perhaps it was when a group of us singing some enjoyable Italian songs in 2004 were asked if we would sing them for an occasion. We accepted the invitation. Other invitations followed and so it has been for the past nine years. At the beginning a group of us decided to sing regularly after Italian conversation classes, from 9 to 11 pm on Thursdays, just for the enjoyment of singing Italian songs we loved. Everyone was welcome to join. Additional musicians were welcome to provide the important accompaniment so needed. Louise Ibbotson appeared with her 100 year old mandolin. She is also an excellent singer. Many singers have come and gone but the core dozen or so, (apostles if you like) remain to this day. The beginning became the middle fairly quickly and since we have no idea if and when the choir will disband, it seems we are stuck in the middle for a long time.
‘Stuck’ is not the right word because people freely enter and leave and also we do not just repeat the same things. The middle is where we started to reflect on what we have been doing and how we might continue to do it and improve. This is where our vision began to emerge and became refined over the years. We decided that recording a CD would be a good idea; and so we did. We have decided that recording another CD will be a good idea and so we hope to in 2014. We decided to enter the National Eisteddfod competition for multicultural choirs and we have done that twice, once winning the first national prize. We don’t know if we are like a rising market that peaked and will continue to trend or if we are like a gum tree that reaches its prime then slowly wanes. How is it possible to do that when there is no quality control of who enters the choir, who provides the music and the standards needed to sing as a choir? Sometimes the workings of groups are mysterious. We have a committee who is democratic and seeks opinions from choir members.
There are some values the choir has as an entity. We value singing to our best, whatever that might be. We value encouragement regardless of our skills and acceptance of mistakes without criticism. Sometimes good enough is as good as the song will be. We select carefully what we learn and what we sing. We have great mentors in the choir who provide vast knowledge of songs and singing. Our repertoire is no accident. Patricia Doyle has contributed the most folk songs we have learned while Livio Chicco has contributed the most classical pieces especially arias from Verdi which we have adapted to make them achievable by our choir members. Virginia Banyard with some impressive singing history is our coach and ‘warm-up the voices’ person. We lay claim to having a unique ‘3 tenors’ (Livio, Giovanni and Sam). Then of course any successful entity has its champions. Yvette Devlin the Vice-President of the Dante who is a member of the choir and is an indefatigable worker has championed the choir from its slow emergence through all its success and difficulties.
Recently I asked members of the choir to describe in one or two words their experience of the choir in 2013 and here is what was said to me: aspiring still; enjoyable, very; enlightening; challenging and fun; uplifting; camaraderie; chaotic; happy chaotic; happiness; harmony; singing well; need more practice; love from the audience; busy, good; wonderful; we are more like a choir now; lively; improved voices. This is the realisation that enjoyment is important in life and sharing that through singing and music is a privilege.