Singing through a pandemic with Song Club

I thought I might start sharing some of my thoughts and ideas about this particularly unusual moment in the life of group singing and singing in general. As we plan to gradually start all things Glee up again, I think there might be some challenges and ideas that are worth sharing – both so our singers can stay in touch with everything that’s going on and also for other singing leaders around the world to get a sense of how we’re going here in Australia at the moment.

But rather than jump into the tricky bits, I thought I might start with some thoughts about the really wonderful thing that has come out of lockdown for me: Song Club.

For years one of the things that I think has been missing in professional singing in Melbourne and Australia has been enough platforms to just play around and try some stuff out. We all know that we get better at performing when we do lots of it and there frankly just hasn’t been enough opportunities to jump up and have a sing. 

This is why I started Showpony a few years ago which was a monthly singing event for professional performers to get up and try new material in a relaxed zone. But somehow it slowly morphed from trying new stuff to trotting out old favourites – often brilliant performances but of songs that had been sung lots of times before. It was still heaps of fun but also heaps of work and when I came home to Melbourne after being on tour with shows I couldn’t find the energy to start it up again when it wasn’t really turning into the thing that I’d imagined. 

The other thing that had been on my mind is that in my coaching practice in my studio was that there was not much opportunity to work on songs for the sake of working on songs. If they weren’t useful for an audition in the foreseeable future, many singers just weren’t interested in learning them for the sake of improving skills and styles or simply just learning something beautiful. And that the only chances many of these singers had to try out repertoire was at auditions – which are definitely not the same as performances!

So I’d been thinking of having some kind of repertoire club where singers learn a new song every week and share them with each other. On the understanding that some of them will be wonderful repertoire discoveries that the singer will keep forever and some of them will get more of a “yeah nah” reaction . Either way, I believe it’s a really integral part of being singer: to discover and learn songs, to grapple with the challenges and styles and to get up and perform them often.

The only sticking point was where and when to do this. And then along came lockdown! Suddenly everyone learned how to use zoom and we weren’t all so busy. Now there was a way to challenge singers to learn a song each week, ask them to drop in and sing it for each other on zoom and then jump into the next song, all without taking off their slippers! And without the cost of venue I could keep the price down to keep it approachable for everyone. 

I curate a list of songs across a range of styles and levels of difficulty, provide all the tools for the singers to learn them and then log on once a week to share them with each other. And singers have brought their own songs too: songs they’ve always loved and never had a chance to learn properly, songs they’re performing in online concerts which need a trial run before the real thing, songs they’d just wondered whether they actually could sing them at all. It actually is kind of limitless in how it can be useful to singers. 

Song Club has been an absolute joy. Not only has it fulfilled what I’d hoped to for professional singers, we’ve also done a Glee Club stream where it has been a delight to watch a whole lot of singers who are newer to solo singing grow in confidence and understanding each week and support and encourage each other to keep going – those applause reactions on zoom are super handy!

It’s been so great that I’ll definitely keep it running for the rest of the year and probably beyond. Who says wonderful things can’t come out of a pandemic?!

If you’re interested in being a part of Song Club, check out the Song Club page here.