Happy Wednesday lovely people!
So today’s story is really all about confidence and finding (or in this case re-finding) yourself through singing regularly. The very lovely Cath Smith or ‘CathTwo’ as she’s affectionately known because of her twitter handle is a founding member of our Cardiff SUPERCHOIR. Cath is the type of person who will get things done for you – she’s ever so kind and will organise lovely ‘thank you’s’ for people in secret and has created huge impact for a local charity of ours by being generous, innovative and wonderfully organised – she talks more about this in the story so you can read more later. Cath is story has an interesting angle in that she had sung pretty much all of her life, so the act of singing itself wasn’t something new. What was new was singing with the Sing & Inspire method and how this was integral to developing Cath’s self esteem.
The other thing to mention about Cath is that she on first glance appears to be a shy birdie! Cath isn’t the first to jump up and shout, or the loudest cub in the pack, but she’s got a lovely dispensation for standing back and stepping in when appropriate, and she’s pretty much as solid as a rock when it comes to reliability and loyalty.
So here’s her story – slightly edited as some of Cath’s story is SUPER CHOIR centric. I didn’t want some readers to feel lost in detail which would be hard for you to put into context if you weren’t a SUPER choir member. Here it is in her words.
I’ve always enjoyed singing and was a member of some choir or other pretty much right the way through school as far as I can remember. There was something safe about singing with other people – I had my spot in the back and was perfectly happy; I never used to sing particularly loudly so couldn’t hear myself over everyone around me and that suited me fine!
Except it didn’t, really, as what I actually wanted to be doing was standing out at the front belting out solos. Every time auditions for school shows came around, I never went for them (even though I really, really wanted to) and always stayed in the chorus. It wasn’t that I thought I couldn’t sing – I was just incredibly, painfully shy and couldn’t sing in front of other people. Or, for that matter, speak – I used to avoid putting my hand up in lessons in case the teacher picked me and I’d have to answer a question with everyone listening. I was fine in conversations with friends, just like I was fine in choirs, but put me at the centre of attention and I’d clam up.
Sixth Form was better – all the kids who’d used to bully me left (I was a bully’s dream at school, I had everything – glasses, different accent from having lived in London, swot, the works), I started coming out of my shell a bit more, went for Head Girl (got Deputy – whoop!), started doing more in school concerts and even sang a solo once… I can’t remember whether I volunteered or was just told I was doing it, but I was very nearly sick with nerves beforehand and, as performances go, it was hindered somewhat by the window being open and the music blowing from the piano onto the floor which meant I had to start all over again so I pretty much ran out of the hall in relief when the ordeal was over… I didn’t do another one, let’s put it that way!
That’s about as out of my shell as I thought I’d manage to get, and I didn’t have anything I thought counted as performance experience anyway, so I put aside my secret hopes of becoming a stage star, went off to do History at uni, had fun, met some lovely people, sang in a gospel choir, was too shy to give any of the musical theatre groups a go (even though I really, really wanted to… we’ve been here before!), graduated and got on with getting jobs and things.
“Jobs and things” took me, via a long and winding road covering holiday camps, pensions admin, web development and product development (no, I’m not sure what they’ve got to do with History either…) to my current job, working as a Research Analyst for a company that builds care homes. My second year into the job, the charity committee that I sit on chose Ty Hafan to be our nominated charity for two years and the plan was to launch the partnership at that year’s Staff Conference. After a recommendation from Ty Hafan, Sing and Inspire were hired to take the afternoon session – we got split into groups (I was in yours) and had two hours to learn ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ before getting together to perform it as a company-wide choir. I was properly ill that day with a horrendous cold and until I got wind of what was going on I’d been tempted to slope off home early and go to bed as I was feeling pretty rubbish. As soon as I found out that we were going to be forming a giant choir I decided to stay – I put as much as I could into the singing (making myself feel even worse in the process) and sweated my way through it, having as much fun as someone who was ill and should really have been in bed could have in an afternoon! I loved it, the day ended, and I assumed that was that and forgot all about it…
Cue an email a month or so later telling us about a choir that was going to be trialled at work and asking for potential members to come forward! I think I was first to sign up – I’d never heard of workplace choirs before but they sounded like an amazing idea! I’d been looking to get back into choirs anyway as it had been years since I was last in one so the timing couldn’t have been better 🙂 I think you might’ve been at the first rehearsal, along with Patrick and Diane, and we did Baby It’s Cold Outside – I remember thinking it was the most fun I’d had in ages and how awesome it was to be singing again! A few weeks later, we were doing Silent Night (incidentally, still one of my favourites – it’s beautiful) and Diane asked me if I wanted to give the solo a go… and here’s where something odd happened because I found myself saying yes! I’ve no idea why – I drove home that evening in a bit of daze as I really couldn’t work out quite what had happened…
The next week I stayed behind after rehearsal to sing it through in front of Patrick and Diane – lovely as they are, it was pretty daunting standing there about to sing something that one of them had arranged with them both sat there watching me – it was my childhood nightmare realised!! I felt possibly more nervous than I’d ever felt in my life to that point but I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself and I knew I’d regret it if I pulled out at the last second (tempting as it was, even when they started the track playing!) so I went for it… it wasn’t perfect (it probably didn’t really hit ‘great’, if I’m honest) but I’d done it, I hadn’t passed out, they were still smiling and singing it again a second time didn’t seem half as bad after that The social side effects of singing in choirs again regularly have obviously been huge in that I’ve made loads of really good friends from all walks of life, most of whom I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. :).
A large majority of the things that I’ve done/experienced in the last few years that I look back on as having been fun or worthwhile are things that I’ve gotten to do as a direct result of either being in the choirs or because of the friendships that I’ve made through them
And that, as they say, is pretty much that! The work choir that started it all off isn’t going any more, but I’ve been in SUPERCHOIR since it started so still get to have my weekly fix of singing Sing and Inspire style. I’m also in the Sororitas Female Voice Choir, which I only found out about through getting to know people at SUPERCHOIR, and audition for just about every solo going in that 🙂 I’ve gigged at the WMC, I’ve helped to workshop a musical, I’ve done a radio interview and a couple of months ago I sang ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Mis in front of a (small-ish, but that’s not the point) theatre at Chapter Arts Centre with only myself and the pianist for company! And people clapped!
I’m now the most confident I’ve ever been, the shell I managed to sort of emerge from back in Sixth Form is now lying in pieces somewhere behind me, and I don’t know that I’d be able to say that if it wasn’t for meeting you and that amazing team of yours at Sing and Inspire. So …..
Here’s the lovely Cath in all her glory
Links that might be useful for reference here http://www.singandinspire.com/what-we-do/superchoir/ http://www.tyhafan.org/