Starling Arts’ Co-director Emily Cook reflects on a weekend running singing workshops in Toulouse, France.
My absolute favourite thing about running Starling Arts has to be the fusion of singing and community, which is rooted in the soul of every note we sing. When Anna and I thought up our first motto back in 2010 - Unite, Create, Soar - weekends like this one just passed were exactly what we had in mind. Getting people together, creating something special using music, and flying high as a result. To my mind there are very few things that unify and bond people as quickly as singing - proof of which has to be the university production of the musical Follies in which I met my now fiancé!
This Saturday morning we woke up in Toulouse in Southern France, ready to run a weekend of singing workshops with over 40 people, across a range of ages, levels of experience and first languages! We were working with a community association very much akin to our own ethos at Starling Arts; TMA (Theatre, Music, Action) also uses the arts to bring people together, providing arts opportunities in English for anyone in the local community, with regular music and theatre activities taking place during the year. The 'action' part of their title, to me, really enforces the idea that something special happens when people get together through the arts.
We were really excited to have been asked to run a special weekend-long 'show choir' workshop for TMA, extending the work we already do with our three London-based choirs, as well as our youth, community, education and corporate singing projects. As we boarded a flight from London Gatwick, Anna and I took stock of how lucky we have been to pursue a career we love so much, and for our work to have taken us international, meeting like-minded people and sharing our passion for music and theatre, now, across the channel too!
We had hoped to get the group, many of whom had not met before, to feel at home together, before exploring vocal, physical and performance techniques. Our chosen repertoire included songs from Rent, the charts and a favourite Elvis-era mash-up arrangement, complete with dance moves! We were excited to see that the group were so passionate about singing, so thirsty to learn new skills, improve their harmony singing and try out some new dance moves too.
The results were electric, with many of the group finding themselves surprised by their achievements: “I never thought anyone would get me dancing!”, ‘I didn’t think I could sing in harmony”, “I’ve always been too shy to sing in public!”...
Of course we were very proud but not at all surprised by what the group achieved in such a short amount of time - it’s incredible what an investment in the concept of ‘community’ (and a bit of fun) can do. Before we could catch our breath, we were back on a plane to London, that motto Unite, Create, Soar more pertinent than ever as we looked down over France, soaring though the sky, still humming the tunes and tapping our toes.
If you would like Starling Arts to work with your community group, business, school or choir, contact Anna and Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org