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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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4 English Folk Songs for Choirs


In this chapter, I take up the theme of English folk song and its place in the community choir repertoire. In an attempt to clarify some of the repertoire choices made by community choir leaders, I explore attitudes towards English folk song, and trace some of the shifts in perception that have taken place since the work of the Victorian collectors. I examine briefly the changing role of folk song in the choral repertoire both for adults and for children. I turn to the repertoire of community choirs and the prevalence of world music in these repertoires. I give an account of work I have done to challenge the ‘dominant culture’ of world music in the community choir arena, using two examples, a conference and a training course. I then describe my own approach to arranging folk songs for community choirs and then I describe innovative ways in which I have presented folk music to choirs and audiences who may not previously have engaged with that genre of music.

Folk song in and out of favour

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