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A River Rather Than a Road

The Community Choir as Spiritual Experience


Sarah Morgan and June Boyce-Tillman

This book is an auto-ethnographic account of the development of a charismatic community choir leader. It brings together management literature and a survey of the community choir scene with the development of community choir leadership. It provides a useful introduction to the sustaining of community choirs, including the use of English folksong
material in this context. Some useful arrangements of folk songs are included. Community singing events are described with helpful advice on setting up and managing these. It presents a useful model of the range of skills necessary for aspiring community choir leaders. This is linked with the formation of a community that contains spiritual elements; this is theorized in relation to the role of the parish church in communal singing. It also discusses the two aesthetics of choral singing and the relationship between oral and literate traditions. The book arises from the engagement of the University of Winchester in partnership with the local community, which is theorized.
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Praise for A River Rather Than a Road


‘As a music student in a choir, I have clear, deep and cherished memories of touring with a choir; they were not just about the music, but about relationships, and learning to live and work together in harmony.

In a world dominated by being a place where “me” is king and “now” is the timescale, this book provides a welcome antidote to our growing individualism and says loudly and harmoniously that community and music are sacred and precious gifts for human flourishing that have the power to connect heart, mind, body and soul. Through an exploration of power, collaboration and partnership, this study challenges musicians, sociologists, theologians and the whole of humanity. But this book is also an honest reflection of the challenges faced in community choirs. Creating them is not easy, since humanity is often messy and difficult.

For anybody working with others, whether musically or not, this is a rich and rewarding tribute and manual for how to live better together. I wonder why our elected representatives, our parliaments and our world organizations don’t form community choirs – and I wonder if the world might be a more beautiful place if they did so. It is not music which is transformative, it is doing music together which is.’

— REVD CANON TIM SLEDGE, Vicar of Romsey Abbey

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