Founded 20 years ago, the Taranaki Male Choir almost became a casualty of Covid. In the list of activities guaranteed to spread the virus, singing in an enclosed space was pretty high.
Members come from all walks of life, covering all ages and ethnic backgrounds. They come together once a week to sing, make new friends and just enjoy being together. When Covid hit, some naturally became afraid, both for health and business reasons, and stopped coming to rehearsals.
One choir member, Jeremy Wood, hit on the idea of electronically keeping the choir together by digitizing some of its music library.
He applied for a grant from Lotto and received a substantial amount of funding for preparing versions of songs for each of the four voice sections in the choir. Songs could be downloaded to a smart phone and listened to and learned at any time. He knows of no other choir in the world that is using this technology to help choristers learn words and music.
The technology meant that choristers could learn at their own pace, not just at the weekly rehearsals.
Significantly, this has also meant that attracting new members would become much easier, since people are often put off by having to master enough songs before they can become qualified to sing in a formal concert.
As well as the recording of learning music tracks, the Lotto funding has been used for the salary of a new Musical Director for the choir. Julian Raphael, a composer, performer and teacher of music had moved his company, Community Music Junction, from Wellington to New Plymouth.
With an expected surge in membership and an increasing number of concerts forecast, the choir now needed additional funding to buy equipment to make it more mobile and able to perform in more or less any type of location.
Step forward the TOI Foundation, whose generous grant allowed it to buy a range of equipment, including the latest in portable electric pianos, microphones and uniforms for the new members expected following the choir’s rebirth.
“Singing in groups has proven to be beneficial to people, particularly in creating a community spirit and reducing vulnerability and loneliness in older men,” says Jeremy.
To join the choir all you need to do is sing in tune! For details of times and locations of weekly rehearsals, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disabled people are welcome, as are new New Zealand citizens -perfect knowledge of English or Māori is not needed.