Together in perfect harmony
PUBLISHED: 13:53 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 14:00 14 April 2015
Lucy Etherington and her teenage daughter try to re-create Pitch Perfect at Abi Moore's A Capella singing workshop
I love singing. I do it all the time in the car. Just not often in public.
Even though I think I have a pretty amazing voice, no one has ever told me this. In fact, when I think about it, no one has even mentioned my voice, despite the many opportunities – school choir, karaoke nights, weddings, funerals, making demo tapes with my best mate to send to David Bowie in the hope he’d employ us as backing singers (still waiting for your call, Dave…).
You could say that my talent: confidence ratio was sliding way to the right.
My daughter on the other hand has a gorgeous voice (when she’s not trying to imitate Demi Lovato), but no confidence.
Our idea of a great night in is watching sing-a-long girly movies, our favourite being Pitch Perfect and PP2, about an all-girl A Capella choir.
So when I saw that our local arts centre was hosting A Capella lessons, I though what a perfect mother-daughter bonding experience.
When I told my daughter what I had planned, however, she freaked out. Then I did. I obviously can’t sing, and she genuinely suffers from stage fright. We can’t even get drunk – she’s 14 and I’m driving. What was I thinking?
But there’s a part of me that knows it’ll be good for her confidence, so I bribe her with pocket money and chocolate and promise that if she hates it we’ll leave.
After a not very good start, we get to The Bank in Eye at 6pm and see that there are already 20 other people there, none of them hot young men – apologies to the perfectly charming gentlemen present – mostly women around my age which helps my daughter relax. About half the people there are regulars, but there are enough nervous looking newcomers to make us feel less like running out the doors and up the hill to Hoxne.
Our teacher is Abi Moore, a celebrated singer-songwriter from Lincolnshire. She’s been running A Capella choirs for a while now – there’s another one in Bury – and clearly has mastered the ability to get 20 nervous amateurs to sing in harmony from scratch in under three hours without being at all bossy. She’s utterly charming and has no doubts about what we can achieve.
Before my daughter and I have time to analyse our performance neuroses, Abi gets us all to stand in a circle and begin with some warm up exercises, designed obviously to make you look so daft you don’t care what happens after that. Oh, and to practise how to control your voice. Basically, Abi teaches us how to sing in about ten minutes flat.
That’s not so bad. We breathe a sigh of relief.
But then she plays us a tape of what she wants to sing by the end of the evening – an A Capella version of Blowin’ In The Wind.
“You did all know it was Dylan night?” says Abi.
“You do know who Bob Dylan is?” I whisper to my daughter.
She rolls her eyes. Of course she knows Dylan. Her dad is a music trivia king (although his friend Malcolm might contest this). Her grandparents are former music journalists. She has been spoon fed indie, rock and pop since she was a baby.
Now Abi is dividing us into groups according to our vocal range. I decide I’m middle range, especially when I learn that’s the main melody. I won’t have to do anything fancy.
My mum would head for the high group – she harmonises to everything on the radio, even the Arctic Monkeys. I decide I’ll definitely bring her along to the next class (March 16 is Go Gospel, April is Power Pop, Sing The Sixties is May, and June – mum’s birthday – Motown Showdown!).
My daughter is sticking to my side like glue, even though I know she’d be good at the high notes. But I’m proud of her. At least she’s going for it.
I assumed everyone would rush to do the easy middle part, but no, most people are up for the tricky harmonising bits – hence why they paid to do A Capella instead of just plain old singing. Obviously I’m not that confident yet.
We run through our bits several times, separately and together. It’s really hard not to start singing along with the other groups. I try to concentrate on the person next to me, but he keeps being led off by the high group too. It’s a mess.
But just when it seems I’m never going to get it, suddenly the whole thing comes together. We’re singing in harmony! And after a couple of goes, ironing out the rusty bits, we sound pretty good. The weird thing is that I can hear myself – I am amazing of course, even if no one else thinks so – but I can also hear the three separate harmonies, and the choir as a whole.
How did that happen?
On the way home, I was hoping we would burst into a capella – perhaps not Dylan. No Diggity by Blackstreet would be cool – but I think we’ll need a few more classes before we become anywhere near pitch perfect . . .