Music & Drama are two aspects of life that I had to continue at university. Mostly because I love it, but partly because, subconsciously, it’s a sort of safety blanket and gives me a sense of security in doing something I know how, and would consider myself good at it (got distinction in my diploma and have sung since I was 6; change my mind), in a completely alien environment of coming to university.
Therefore it was my mission to audition for as many music groups I could (spoiler alert I got into my top two music group choices), which, irritatingly, were in freshers week. That meant that I had to pretend to “look after myself” during freshers week, when all thoughts concerning my liver and general health had completely gone out the window.
First on the hit-list was The Chapel Choir of Hatfield College. I remember it being the same day as my second round of auditions for Northern Lights A Cappella and that my voice was completely wrecked by an underestimated night at Klute, but I guess it turned out alright, since I got in. (I think the fact that I got a choral scholarship at Brasenose College, Oxford was the secret key, but hey, even if I didn’t get in [still bitter],turns out it’s more useful than I thought in audition interviews).
Rehearsals are once a week for 1.5h on Sundays, where we have challenging sight reading to tackle every week, since we sing new set of Mag&Nunc (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis), anthem and psalm for every evensong on Monday’s. I soon became aware of how much concentration this requires; the rehearsal is back to back with my Northern Lights A Cappella rehearsal, and both myself and the director of music have had many hours of music and singing already throughout the day, so by the time it reaches 6pm on a Sunday, we are all a bit sensitive. Therefore, it’s in my best interest just to plough through the rehearsal so that the director of music doesn’t get aggy about our phrasing in psalms.
We have another ½ hour rehearsal to perfect our anthems or the latest set of responses on Mondays before evensong at 6:30pm. I always look forward to Evensong. The solemn beauty of church music is something I’ve grown to love and feel very proud to sing. However, it’s always a tad disheartening when we sing grandiosely , our notes filling the chapel, to the disappointingly sparse audience of Bash, Mistress and the odd student who as the decency to arrive wearing a suit jacket and tie. (These few individuals give me hope for the upstanding our generation, promising me that choral music and evensong tradition hasn’t died out.) Evensong typically ends with my eager departure to make sure I make it dinner, or having to send a Whatsapp to my roomie mid-evensong secretly to ask her to request late dinner for me.
A highlight for me this term with the chapel choir was our evensong service at Ripon Cathedral, where our voices soared to the high ceilings of the cathedral, as well as our more populated audience attendance at our carol service, especially when we sang the serene “La Rose complete” by Morten Laurisden.
Then on the other end of the music spectrum, is the Durham University Northern Lights A Cappella group. Northern Lights sing renditions of pop songs and are quite famous around the university and nationally – since they came 3rd in ICCA’s (International Championships of Collegiate A Capella – yes that is the Pitch Perfect competition for those who though this anacronym sounded familiar) I had 3 intense rounds of auditions in freshers week – that when I realised that I the group that I was auditioning for, was no small deal – and my gut feelings were correct. We rehearse 3 times a week 1 ¾ hours so when all the Durham Sportsmen and women train, DU A Capella rehearses. One has to come to rehearsal prepared; because there are so few to a voice part, if you don’t know your harmony, it sticks out like a sore thumb, but oh my when we get it right, boy does it sound good (cue chills up the spine). Of course, commitment doesn’t come without its impracticalities; Awkward and inconvenient timings occur every fortnight when I have a seminar on PG finishing at 6, where I then juggle trying to meet someone at Cuth’s for late dinner on time, having a speedy dinner, (not so fast so it looks like I’m being rude, but really I don’t want to go into unknown territory by myself), and then pacing it up to the Science site for a 6:25pm start – it’s a miracle. As well as rehearsing for ICCA’s, we rehearse our set of songs, (which has recently included Shotgun, High Five & Clarity) for College Ball Gigs, our latest being Van Mildert Michaelmas Ball, Chad’s Hope Ball, as well as auditions for LIWB and Castle June Ball.
A highlight for me this term with the Northern Lights had to be our corporate gig for a company Christmas party up in Newcastle. All of us strolling up to the venue in our stash, followed by us smashing the performance made me feel so proud and honoured to be singing in a group of dedicated and very talented singers.
With both groups, I’m feel involved in what is becoming a tight knit family, with Northern Lights more than Hatfield Chapel, due to the fact that I spend 5+ hours with Northern Lights a week and I’m the youngest in Hatfield Chapel.
Often I find myself paralleling the commitment of both these music group with a DU Sports team; you wouldn’t go out partying hard and risking getting GBH in Jimmies the night before an important tournament, you would train at the gym in your own time (yes, I’m on a cardio plan for A Capella.. bear in mind singing full pelt + choreography isn’t a simple task) – Equally, it’s slightly annoying when “I can’t go hard/go out tonight, I’ve got to be on top form for tomorrow” or “I can’t have dairy, it clogs my voice” , but ultimately you willingly make sacrifices for the sake of your dedication and passion for what you enjoy doing.
All the awkward impracticalities of my commitment to the 2 music groups, while settling into university and balancing work and play are cast off instantly by the sheer satisfaction when I’m in chapel and I hear the quality of sound resonate throughout, or when I’m singing my solo in A Capella, microphone gripped in hand at the front of the group formation, giving it my all, temporarily forgetting everything, just focussing on the music I’m singing with the roar of audience applause – these are the moments when I realise that all the mini sacrifices are completely worth it, which is why I can’t wait for 2019 season to come sooner.