It’s a funny phrase “learn it off by heart”. If we look up the meaning, the Cambridge dictionary says “to learn something in such a way that you can say it from memory“. When were were young, this was normal and we would recite poems, stories and narrate plays. Learning it just meant reading it out a few times and then practising out loud during breakfast. My older brain seems less inclined to remember things, and the music on sheets in front of me is rather comforting. However the vast majority of Male Voice Choirs manage just fine without their music, and some of them are twice as old as me!
Approaching the stage without a black folder
This last year has seen the my choir performing without their black folders of music. At first the challenge of learning so many lyrics was so daunting that it terrified us. We did not believe that we could do it, or at best, would just have to smile and hum along to the piano.
How wrong we were! It did take a fair amount of effort and we all have our own methods of getting the words to stick, but this effort has been nothing compared to the difference in our performance. It can now be called a performance, we are now engaging with the audience. To the choirmaster’s delight, we were also occasionally glancing his way for direction!
It has brought us together as a choir. The buzz during this week’s practice for the concert this weekend was phenomenal. I think this is because, after taking away the comfort blanket folders, we realised that we are singing to an audience who are there to be entertained. This means we are focussing on the meaning of the lyrics and telling the story. Perhaps this is why it is called learning it off by heart. Once you do, your heart will sing out.
About the Author – Shelly Richman often writes for Recordings 4 Choirs and assists on location when we are out recording a choir.