Who is SHE? – SHE is Rosa!

 

Who is she?

I’m Rosa and I’m 22

Where are you from and where are you now?

I’m a part time-Manc – who goes between London (my family home) and Manchester (my spiritual home)

When and how did you become a part of she choir?

I first saw SHE choir at the reclaim the night after party in 2013, I immediately decided that there women were my people and I was going to become one of them and I have never looked back.

What do you do in the choir?

I sing tops! We can somehow reach those high notes without sounding like strangled cats (most of the time). I have arranged and led some songs in the past however more often than not I come to choir for the singing and the chat.

What do you do apart from singing with the she choir?

I am in the final year of my Anthropology degree at the University of Manchester. I hope this year won’t be my last with SHE but I may transfer to the sister choir in London when I graduate in June.

What does SHE Choir mean to you?

SHE choir means so much to me. I love giving choir the time where work and uni and life stress doesn’t matter, its 90 minutes a week where we come together to sing and enjoy each other’s company. I have met some of my best friends in Manchester through choir and it has also provided me with a house, a social life and an amazing network of wonderful women in all walks of life who actually care.

What’s your best ever she choir moment?

One of my highlights was a very small gig we did at a freshers ball in 2013, they were too drunk to notice our wonderful singing and there was no amplification but we know we sounded amazing. Also I really enjoyed the Christmas season we have just completed although we started singing Christmas songs in August!

What do you hope the future holds for SHE choir?

Choir has grown from strength to strength since I joined in 2013. I left for a year and come back to different people but the same choir, as we say in one of our songs we are a family. There is an overwhelming shared interest and passion for singing and the choir which won’t stop it growing and reaching out to all women in Manchester who want to be part of it.

Who is SHE? – SHE is Karen!

WHO IS SHE?
My name is Karen and I’m 50.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
I’m born Manchester, love it, never left, and now live in Hulme.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A PART OF SHE CHOIR
I heard about SHE through a woman at work who wanted to join a choir and had previously seen SHE, so I checked the web site and we went along together. That was about 18months ago. I loved it.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE CHOIR?
I sing mostly in the middles, although as my confidence has grown I’m now trying more with the tops. I like being part of the choir in terms of organising events too. I recently helped plan for us to all go to the Street choirs festival, I also arranged a gig at a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly, which we just loved performing at.
WHAT DO YOU DO APART FROM SINGING IN THE CHOIR?
I care for my Dad, he has Alzheimer’s, so that takes lots of my time. I also work, do mindfulness, and have holidays. I love holidays.
WHAT DOES SHE CHOIR MEAN TO YOU?
It’s for me, it’s something I love to be a part of that is so massively rewarding. My life is hectic with lots of responsibilities, so it’s just amazing I have found SHE, and SHE brings me such joy! It’s being part of something totally unique and special, being with such a variety of women. I’ve been on such a journey with SHE from feeling like I’m not good enough (can’t read music or play an instrument, can I even sing??) to feeling totally accepted and valued for what I bring.
WHATS YOUR BEST EVER SHE CHOIR MOMENT?
So many!! I have to have two, One is being part of a play called The Events, I love to perform, and we got to be part of this fantastic production. Two, is singing with 65 women at our SHE retreat this year, it was the most amazing weekend together with our sister choir SHE London.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THE SHE CHOIR?
More of the same really, great rehearsals fantastic gigs, new friends, new adventures. More Sister SHE choirs developing in other locations, we need to be global. What we have is so amazing and empowering for women, we need to spread the love we have.

The long SHE road to Edenfest.

As I wash out the last stray bits of glitter and unpack my bag which smells vaguely of gin I’m not only repetitively humming ‘da, da, da’ from the Dixie Chicks but also reflecting on the last SHEmazing weekend of loveliness at Eden Festival, Dumfries, Scotland.

When we were invited to sing at Eden Festival our immediate reaction was ‘YES, hell YES..we’re in’!! Then the reality of being asked to perform at our first ever festival began to dawn and the work began.

 

Our rehearsals doubled and singing homework was set. Harmonies were tested and ‘just listen to the recording!!’ echoed at every rehearsal. Spreadsheets were coordinated and gin supplies considered. Lifts were divvied out and spare tents bandied about. The line-up changed slightly as singers had to duck out but new ones were found.  Group glitter supplies were gathered and excitement was building.

This excitement started to outweigh the nervous energy and the notes started to be more confident.

WE ARE GOING TO EDEN FESTIVAL!!!!!

Once there the 14 breakaway SHEs, of our usual 30-40+ strong choir, set about last chance rehearsals as our first of three performances over the weekend loomed. As tents were set up and we explored the festival you could hear the sounds of SHE wafting across Artist camping on the Friday morning as we were drilled in our final prep by conductors extraordinaire Ros and Esther.bandstand

Confidence reaffirmed with a shot of gin, full facial glitter and SHEtatts we conveyed across the festival to our first performance in the stone circle. Being slightly out of the way of the main arena and raining we only had a small crowd by nobody could doubt their enthusiasm! SHE history happened as we had our first ever table dancers during 90s medley.

In fact I think we broke another SHE record as one of the audience members who saw us on the Friday then came to all of our other performances…THREE IN A ROW! Our first SHE groupie?

hay bale

The following two performances were larger in audience size, however we were competing with the bass from the Trance and Dance tents behind us. It tattadded a whole new element to our very soothing arrangement of Lemonworld, maybe a remix to be considered for the future? It was especially fantastic to receive the support of Dumfries and Galloway choir as they came to listen to our performances and vice versa, maybe we’ll join you on the main stage one day!

So as I continue to hum along to the earworm of Bills by Destinys Child and return to my working week I am reflecting on how proud I am of my fellow SHEs of all the work we put into weeks leading up the festival. How being part of such a positive, challenge seeking and laughter driven choir brings me joy, inspires me to be
a strong SHE and reminds me that we are family. Because after all, I’ve got all my sisters with me!

We each did Eden our way, which is the SHE way.

Thank-you Eden Festival for inviting us and all who have been involved in the festival. May we see you again in the years to come (if the Universe decides it)

 

My SHE Choir experience #2

Although it might not seem likely now, before I joined SHE Choir I struggled with singing.  It all began when I was fourteen, when I sang a very uncool song in a school concert (I call it ‘The Bette Midler Incident’). This was, let’s say, an unwise decision against the backdrop of high-school critique, and for years the memory of it made me want to curl into a ball and disappear.

Later in my teenage years, music was all about boys. Not in a fumbling lust way, but in the sense that with their new guitars and varying levels of talent and skill, the boys at my sixth-form college were somehow in charge. They wanted singers, obviously, but on their own terms. Knowing music theory and all the words to 80s rock ballads was a distinct disadvantage, and it was clear that I belonged on the admiring side of things, not attempting to make noise or annoyingly take over. And yes, given half a chance I would almost certainly have annoyingly taken over. But that meant no singing, which was sad for seventeen-year-old me.

Subsequent tentative efforts at singing did not go well, admittedly usually because alcohol was involved. There was a karaoke night where I made the genuinely startling decision to try to sing Van Morrison’s Moondance in the same actual key as Van Morrison, which was predictably not a success, what with him being a man and everything. Then there were the various friends who mocked subtly or openly if I ever dared to sing along with people at parties (one admitted years later that she was horribly jealous and just wanted to be able to join in herself) and the controlling boyfriend always on the vicious lookout for me ‘making a show of myself’. Silenced again and again, by my late twenties I associated singing mostly with shame.

Luckily, like at the end of a horror film where the villain simply refuses to die, I shifted tack a bit and bought a piano.  I am really, really bad at playing the piano. This is partly because I have very small hands, and partly because I am far too lazy to practice, but for some reason this doesn’t bother me, perhaps because my entire childhood was spent with my dad tutting while I worked out Roxette tunes v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y in the wrong key. There’s no shame in that at all.

Then, one day a friend of mine who works as a music critic and plays the piano very well came round and we sat there on the piano stool while he played and I sang. When we finished he looked at me and told me he hadn’t known I could actually properly sing. He sounded so surprised that I could tell he meant it. And even if he didn’t, it was about time I had a go at believing it anyway.

So I went and joined a choir. I’m making this sound simple, when actually I first tried to persuade a friend to come with me and looked at all sorts of choirs and dithered and procrastinated. And then one day I saw a retweet of an ad for a SHE choir taster session.

There was a large circle of ladies and I just turned up knowing nobody in the room, which was daunting, but you know what? Nobody cared. They let me sing. They didn’t laugh. Some people knew loads about music and could play instruments, and others didn’t. Anyone wanting to be in charge could be in charge, and knowing the words to 80s rock ballads finally felt useful.

Being part of a supportive group where the criticism is constructive and the atmosphere is encouraging and kind means that a few years on, I can honestly say that I feel completely different about singing. I may even owe Bette Midler an apology.

 

My SHE Choir experience

The first song I ever conducted at SHE Choir was Spooky by Dusty Springfield. I’d always liked Dusty and Spooky features on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Incidentally the whole soundtrack is packed with songs SHE Choir would be great at doing, like Police and Thieves or Ghost Town. It was coming up to Halloween and we were due to sing at Sunday Assembly, the anti-church church that had recently launched in Manchester. I thought it would make a good Halloween theme song, so Ros, Ruth and I got together at Ros’s flat and settled by her piano to get cracking.
I’d never arranged a song before and it was a long time since I’d played a piano, so in all honesty I had no idea what to do! I had to get over any shyness about singing or directing the choir what to sing and when. SHE Choir rehearsals are relaxed and supportive enough to just give things a go, no matter how long you have or haven’t been singing with SHE.

It is very easy when conducting a well practiced song to appear to be someone for whom arranging, teaching and leading a song is as easy as falling off a log. The truth is, most SHE songs, and certainly any that I’ve lead are the product of a many hours of collaboration that usually have a side feature of tea and cake, pitta and hoummus, or a full dinner and wine if you’re doing a really epic anthem! I’ve always had so much fun overcoming the challenge of song arrangement with a small group, and it has also been an opportunity to get to know your ‘song team’ better. Its a lovely bonding experience with other SHEs.

I think most people in choir have at some point heard a song on the radio and thought “SHE would smash this!”. When we’re deciding on what to sing, our monthly meetings are a good time to bring up songs you have up your sleeve, whether they are just a glint in your eye, or a fully written out arrangement. We also have a songs tracker spreadsheet that anyone in choir can add to. The tracker makes sure that songs are done on a first-come-(prepared)-first-served basis. You can submit your song suggestion on a new row, then tick off that you’ve got other people to help you with it (or ask for help), you’ve run in through, you’ve typed up the lyrics and made recordings. With all those things in place you should be ready to teach it and get it into our repertoire.
If you’d like to be involved with helping to arrange a song, the tracker is the best place to look too. Lots of SHEs make Spotify playlists of their wannabe songs that they are willing to share so go ahead and ask if you need your music collection updating!

Leading on new SHE songs has taught me so much, now I can’t listen to music without hearing the potential arrangements out there. I’ve made friendships stronger, increased my confidence and had a real sense of accomplishment and team work. SHE encourages everyone to give it a go and I’d highly recommend it!