Singing in a choir is not usually seen as the coolest of hobbies. For some people it brings back bad memories of being forced to sing at school, or puts them in mind of serried ranks of poker-faced individuals in evening dress, complete with regulation handkerchiefs poking out of the men's top pockets. It doesn't always look like, well, fun.
But things are changing. Reality TV shows like Last Choir Standing and Gareth Malone's The Choir, not to mention Glee, have set people wondering whether it might actually be fun to sing in harmony with a bunch of like-minded folks. And Glasgow is a city that loves to sing: a quick look at Glasgow Choirs Website will give some idea of the wealth of groups you could join, from huge choral societies to pocket-sized chamber choirs, doing everything from the great choral classics to barbershop to country and western.
Voicebeat is a little different to the run of choirs. For one thing it's the only Glasgow-based community choir to focus mainly on world music, which means a wide variety of styles and even languages (currently ranging from French and Ukrainian to Sotho, but including plenty of English too). The group was set up in 2002 by Jane Tomlinson, with a particular mission to involve refugees and asylum seekers, who brought their songs to the group and gave it a distinctive multi-cultural flavour. It's led today by Harry Campbell of the Glasgow-based folk-world combo Muldoon's Picnic.
Less experienced singers often dread being made to sing on their own, so anything that looks like an entrance exam is a deal-breaker. There's no audition at Voicebeat. Dazzling musical skills aren't essential, it seems, just enthusiasm, energy and a love of singing in harmony, and singers don't need to be able to read music. Musical scores, recordings and even videos are available for those who want to put in some extra practice.
"Nice folk to meet up with," says one new arrival, "I felt welcomed and able to just do my best". Others enjoy the "interesting range of music" and the "relaxed environment". Choirs are all about teamwork and feeling part of the group, according to Harry, and he says it's striking how quickly new people start to feel at home. "You looked as if you'd been singing together for years," commented one audience member, though in fact some singers had only known each other for a few weeks.
Some people even claim health benefits for singing: increased cardiovascular fitness, lowered blood-pressure, that kind of thing. But it seems that the real benefit is to the soul, the spirit, whatever you want to call it. Or as one Voicebeater put it, clearly on some kind of choral high, it "makes you happy, leave your worries behind!"
Voicebeat meets on Monday evenings in Partick.
Singing in a choir is not usually seen as the coolest of hobbies. For some people it brings back bad memories of being forced to sing at school, or puts them in mind of serried ranks of poker-faced individuals in evening dress, complete with regulation handkerchiefs poking out of the men?s top pockets. It doesn?t always look like, well, fun.