I'm not a great singer by any lengths of the imagination, the prospect of singing usually brings me up in a cold sweat. And, as my mother loves to remind me, I'm totally tone deaf. Needless to say, I do not sing.
This is not to say that I don't enjoy and appreciate music, quite the opposite, I'm just very conscious of my lack of musical talent.
When I was invited to go see Cleveland Watkiss, and his choir, perform at the World Heart Beat Music Academy, I jumped at the chance. I felt it would be an educational and enjoyable experience. One which I could appreciate from a distance, in the safety of the audience.
Image from - worldheartbeat.org
For those who aren't aware, Cleveland Watkiss is a Jazz musician who regularly runs classes and workshops at the music academy to get people involved in his improvised choir**.
On arrival I was greeted by some lovely members of staff from the music academy. They were informative and so passionate about the classes they offer which instantly made me feel at ease and so welcome within their world of music.
I later had the privilege of seeing Cleveland's musical genius first hand. Cleveland is extremely talented and the only way I can really explain his unique style of music is that he himself is almost like a musical instrument. The way in which he manages to create the illusion of a whole crowd of people singing a choir piece is incredible.
Using a microphone which allows him to record his voice in layers, Cleveland is able to create an amazing mix of sounds which are so random on their own yet fit together perfectly. Almost like they have been planned with absolute precision. Cleveland does all of this in front of an audience, totally improvised. That is some serious multi-tasking right there.
The second half of the concert was dedicated to Cleveland and his choir. I expected to see a new group of people take to the stage area and get ready to sing. Instead I saw the audience chairs get moved to the edges of the room and everyone form a circle in the middle of the room.
I hadn't banked on being part of the choir when I initially agreed to come to the concert. This was a truly most terrifying moment for me, as I have already mentioned, I have no singing abilities. None what so ever. But in the spirit of things, I figured I should just get involved and mime my way through.
I didn't have to mime one tiny bit. Cleveland conducted the choir and prompted them each time he wanted a different note, sound or pitch. He set a basic sound for the whole choir then showed small groups of us at a time the different notes he wanted us to sing.
The experience was amazing. I got over my fear of singing and just enjoyed the moment. Cleveland and the Stardust People Choir form a very friendly and fun yet extremely intense atmosphere.
Joining an improvised Jazz choir would not have even entered my realm of thought had I not visited the concert. Now, I'm considering going back at some point to try it out again.
** Most students at the academy are children, with the exception of the Stardust People Choir who are made up of a variety of age groups. Please contact the World Heart Beat Music Academy if you wish to enquire about classes.