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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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This book owes a great deal to so many people. If Sarah were alive she would want to acknowledge her debt to all the people who have sung with her over her rich life. These are now drawn together in the Sarah Morgan Foundation.1 The Foundation has been particularly supportive of this book, especially Susanna Starling. I am very grateful to Sarah for the opening up of this world for me over our period of association as supervisor and student as well as collaborators in numerous musical projects. My co-supervisor was Professor Sandra Drower, and the Head of Research in the Faculty of Arts, Professor Inga Bryden, and the three examiners – Dr Peter Critten, Dr Olu Taiwo and Professor Ian Russell – helped me refine this.

In the production of this book I am grateful to Hannah Ward for her proofreading skills and to my personal assistant, Charlotte Osman. The University of Winchester provided research support; my colleagues Professor Elizabeth Stuart, Professor Joy Carter and Professor Simon Jobson have supported my work in a variety of ways. At North West University, South Africa, I am grateful to Hetta Potgieter, Liesl van der Merwe and Dirkie Nell for their continued encouragement and opportunities to share my work. Many friends have helped and encouraged me along the way, especially the Revd Wilma Roest, the Revd Bill Scott, the Revd David Page, Sue Lawes, Dr Carol Boulter, Ianthe Pratt and Myra Poole. I am very grateful to Lucy Melville at...

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