And so it begins…

Catherine Pope, Professor of Medical Sociology, tells us about her experiences with the University’s community choir:

January 2016. And so it begins… a cheery email entitled ‘Hello ALL’ from the music-community-choir email list, but actually from Harvey Brough our esteemed and energetic Turner Sims Professor of Music. The email says that the University of Southampton Voices (USV for those fond of acronyms) will start rehearsing again in the Turner Sims, Highfield on Wednesday 27th January 2016 “at the normal time – 1 10 pm – 1 50 pm. Then all subsequent Wednesdays”.

So far so good.

We’ve watched X-Factor, or Gareth Malone’s BBC choir series, so we know that community choirs are part of a ‘great choral tradition.’ This is a chance to join in and ’embrace the music’ with a bunch of likeminded folk from around the university – academics, administrators, students and scholars. And hey it’s only 40 minutes at lunch-time. I used to like singing at primary school….It looks like fun. …What harm could it do to go along? At the very least it’s a chance to see inside of the Turner Sims Concert Hall….? I could just go along and see if I don’t like it I could just stop…?

That’s how it starts.

Take it from me if you come along you’ll be hooked. Even the bit in the email that says

“We will present a concert of ‘A Hum about Mine Ears’ by Clara Sanabras on May 7th at St Michael’s, Bugle Street.  It’s a new composition, based on the Tempest by William Shakespeare.” ….[Oh yeah, just a little piece that Harvey will also be taking to the Barbican with the famous Britten Sinfonia…!]

That won’t put you off.

Once you’ve been sucked in to the USV you won’t be phased by that at all.



…yep, we can do that in May. No problem.

USV - Songs in the theme of love - Nov 2015
Harvey Brough with Ben Okafor in rehearsal for Songs in the Theme of Love.

The thing is Harvey gets us to do it. He displays all the characteristics of a great teacher –   patience, expertise, enthusiasm and faith – he believes we can do it and we do. The USV is open to all – trained and untrained singers, those who can, and cannot read music, and those who believe that they cannot sing. (It helps that a few of the music students join in and we do have some secret talent in our midst including an outstanding Soprano soloist). The last outing for USV was in November 2015. Entitled ‘Songs in the Theme of Love’ this was billed as “an evening of soulful and vibrant music” with Nigerian born singer-songwriter Ben Okafor and Liane Carroll, one of the UK’s finest jazz singers, and ‘our’ band of amazing musicians: Mike Outram (guitar), Joe Nurse (keyboards), Andy Hamill (bass) and Adam Skinner (drums). If you missed it, you missed an amazing gig. It is astonishing that over a few weeks of lunchtime rehearsals USV can conquer a diverse set of compositions that run the range of jazz, gospel, folk, reggae, spiritual and choral styles (and which consist of some of the most fiendish chord arrangements Harvey can dream up). Songs in the Theme of Love included Okafor’s heartrending ‘She Said She Said” his song based on a meeting a migrant mother and her child, and ‘Man of Sorrows’ with its soaring refrain. Okafor’s spiritually infused songs segued perfectly into the second half which included Liane Carroll’s soulful rendition of ‘Memphis in June’ (she can scat to send shivers down your spine) and a version of ‘Dublin Morning’ that evoked late nights, early mornings, piano bars, and emotion – a perfect Song on the Theme of Love.

If you made a new year’s resolution to try something new, or if you just want to exercise your lungs on a Wednesday lunchtime, come along and find out what USV is all about. I’ll look forward to seeing you at our next big show…

Catherine Pope

Health Sciences and USV