Clown Choir - Interview with Louise Foxe
Thanks to Total Choir Resources for publishing this interview:
CHOIR VIEW: Hallelujah! Clown Choir
by Victoria Hopkins
In the latest of our occasional ‘Choir View’ series, we meet a very unusual choir from Ireland, led by rehearsal director Louise Foxe.
Q: Tell us a bit about your choir and how you came to lead it.
My cousin’s boyfriend told me about a ‘clown choir’ starting up in a theatre near where I live (the theatre’s name, ‘Draiocht’ means ‘Magic’ in Irish) in Blanchardstown. The choir was looking for leaders. The musical director lives in Scotland and does intensive rehearsals with the choir once a month, but the weekly rehearsal leadership was to be shared among four people. I had never heard of a ‘clown choir’ and was intrigued, so I looked it up and really liked what I read:
‘….The main performance programme will be innovative – The M50 Symphony, An Evening Rendition of 100 Green Bottles. There will also be elements of red nose performance in the programme. Hallelujah! is open to anyone regardless of ability. There is no audition process for Hallelujah! The ethos of Hallelujah! is accessibility and artistic excellence… Rehearsal directors will be expected to work collaboratively with Debra Salem, the Musical Director to deliver creative and inspiring rehearsals… a high quality of artistic engagement… develop and lead an inspiring programme with the support of Debra…’
It sounded great – fun, aspirational and inclusive without being patronising. It also sounded fabulous to have the support of the musical director, and to work as part of a team (choir direction can sometimes be quite solitary. “Draiocht,” are also hugely supportive of the choir – in terms of resources, time, and people.
Q: What sort of repertoire do you cover and where do you perform?
As you can see from the above, the repertoire isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill. Debra and Veronica (the artistic director) choose fun, uplifting pieces, often building and creating them into something more, into which the element of ‘red-nose’ performance can be incorporated. The musical and red-nose element really complement each other. Inevitably, though, the music is accessible to all and enjoyable. For example, we’ve sung songs such as Barbara Ann, Gareth Malone’s three-way round including Swing Low, When the Saints and I’m Gonna Sing, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, California Dreamin’, Freedom is Coming, various Christmas carols and Debra’s own Christmas compositions. We are now learning Rufus Wainwright’s Beautiful Child and Stand By Me, so it’s a varied programme. We’ve performed at launches of exhibitions, Christmas parties in the theatre, “Culture Night,” (an annual night in Dublin where all cultural venues open their doors for free) and we’ve done, “Flash mob,” performances in the shopping centre across from the theatre – among other things!
Q: What are your plans and hopes for the future of your choir?
I would like for people to continue to enjoy the choir and to produce work of which they are truly proud. I would like the people involved to feel that they have achieved something, and have given something, from being involved with the choir. The choir has a finite life-span, so in terms of concrete results, we will have performances and hopefully a recording at Christmas, and then more performances next year. To see a room full of adults acting like loonybins, having great fun doing it, and being totally comfortable doing so in front of each other (this is the red-nose element) is hilarious. It’s also remarkable considering they were strangers when they walked in the door, and it’s impossible to go to a rehearsal without being cheered up. If that’s happening for me, and I’m the rehearsal director, then I hope the rewards are ten-fold for the members of the choir.
Q: What do you get from Total Choir Resources and what else would you like to see on the site?
The site is brilliant. Thanks a million. The warm-up exercises are great, as are the ‘cheat sheets’. The technical tips are also extremely helpful – especially because they’re written in layman’s language. Also, the pieces on the psychological aspects of performance are useful and reassuring; so basically I get loads – I love everything! I suppose you could have a section where people can upload warm-ups or rounds or things like that, but really that’s covered on your Facebook page, so it’s not totally necessary. You could have a section for technical questions and perhaps a ‘looking for members’ section.
Our thanks to Louise for taking the time to tell us about her extraordinary choir. I think we can all learn something about innovation and creativitiy for our choirs from this group, whether we don red noses or not. You can find out more about Hallelujah Clown Choir here.