Several months ago one of my singers sent a TED talk video to me that is right up the alley of all who value the value of choral music! It’s an introduction and choral performance led by Tim Rhys-Evans, a Welshman as you might guess from his last name, who started a boys-only choir in Wales called Only Boys Aloud.
Wales has a long and proud male choir tradition, but as Rhys-Evans points out, that tradition appears to be fading, perhaps due in part to rampant unemployment and lack of aspirational opportunities, as he calls it. So to buck that trend he took matters into his own hands and started a group of boys choirs, but not your typical boys choirs. These have a pop music twist to them. He speaks quite passionately of the need, in our increasingly virtual world, to bring people together, in the same physical space, to interact with one another, for then they enrich their communities and as well as the lives of the “lads” (as he often calls them) who participate. And he brought along about 200 lads with him on stage to demonstrate.
He gets the audience singing as well. We often lead audience singing as part of our Master Chorus Eastside concerts, and I believe just as intensely as he does that it is vital that we all sing together, whether we are trained singers or not. Rhys-Evans delightfully and adroitly teaches the audience a short three-part riff to accompany the boys; he's very relaxed, playful, encouraging, even has them do a couple of minutes of warm up after their initial...(ahem!) attempt at singing.
If you don’t have time to watch the entire video, watch the first four or five minutes for Rhys-Evans’s talk, and the last seven minutes or so for the audience interaction. Notice the way he brings the audience along, and the way excitement and community build as the minutes pass. These people are having the time of their lives, and it is singing together that does it.
Rhys-Evans charmingly breaks down what is called the Fourth Wall, that invisible barrier between performer and audience that exists at the edge of the stage. And by so doing he brings the audience into the performance, makes them participants, and feeds their souls through artistry and sheer joy. And the music builds a bit of community for all, “lads” included!
Dr. Linda Gingrich
Artistic director and conductor
Master Chorus Eastside