Choirs at Sea

Since 2006 Val and David have been part of Choirs at Sea, brainchild of Peter Rushton of the P&R agency which provides singing opportunities for passengers on cruise ships. 

Val and David work mostly on VOYAGES OF DISCOVERY. Their last trip was their sixth cruise from Mumbai to Bangkok in November of 2011. Here is an article that describes their work.

Choirs at Sea

“there are no wrong notes - only interesting variations!”

‘everyone can sing, everyone should sing, and everyone can sing better!”

An exciting development on board has been the growth of singing as a passenger activity. “Discovery” is very much the name of the game, as many have discovered - or re-discovered - the health and well-being that comes from singing with others. On the cruise from Havana to Portsmouth in April 2011, over eighty people came together. Of that group, approximately a quarter had no previous experience, and a quarter again were able choral singers, so much so that an extension group had to be formed to stretch them a little!

The reason for this growth is undoubtedly the philosophy that everyone can sing, everyone should sing, and everyone can sing better! A lot of the work of the choir leaders is in encouraging those who had written themselves off as singers, or those who had been written off by their school music teachers, to take a step back to finding their own voice. Choir sessions include basic how-to-sing sessions - posture, breathing and resonance work - and when people realise that singing technique is not the closed book they thought, the emotional release is often overwhelming. Past Discovery singers have written that they now have the confidence to seek coaching or join a singing group when they return home. There can be no greater compliment than that.

The choice of songs has also been a crucial factor in encouraging the less able. Simple chants and rounds are used to build up self-belief, and specially written two- and three-part arrangements make sure that nothing is too high or too low or too wordy! In brief, nobody, no matter how nervous they feel, is put in a position where they might fail. African chants, easy rounds, simple ballad settings, folksongs, sea shanties - all the songs are chosen for their user-friendliness! 

It is expected that a significant number of singers will have no music-reading experience. Songs are taught by rote, with the pitches being hand-signed, but dots are provided for those who welcome them.

In fact using the word ‘choir’ can be really misleading - people think of a four-part church choir or a choral society, and nothing could be further from the truth. The greatest compliment came from an Australian gentleman who said the choir was wonderful because it wasn’t ‘high-falutin’! Early on, singers realise that the purpose of the Discovery Singers is not to achieve perfect performances of high-quality classical works, but simply to have fun, always keeping well within the abilities of the singers. Our motto is “there are no wrong notes - only interesting variations!”.

Experienced singers are a boon to our singing groups - they act as role-models for the shy and diffident and they are treated with special respect and gratitude.

© David Machell  2013                                                                                                                              Designed and maintained by Andre Francis