Saturday, 2 July 2016

Dear Forte

Dear Forte,

This is just a little note to say thank you for making my first 2 terms as a Starling so wonderful. When I think back to my first rehearsal, I remember how quiet I was and the way that my mind was running off into all the directions where things might go wrong. I'd dropped out of university a month before, I'd been put on and taken off anti-depressants, given a large supply of anti-anxiety drugs and been set up with my first CBT appointment (of this year at least...). I'd spent the last 4 months or so crying everyday as I struggled through lectures and seminars, tried to translate the alien reading and attempted to blend into the crowd of party-animal, late night-drinking, lack of sleep surviving students that seemed to surround me.

'The duke plays the fluke, the carp plays the harp'
Betcha didn't know that, eh?
I'd gone to the counselling service, I'd talked through my stresses, I'd decided to drop out and my dad had driven to Mile End, the campus bubble that held me, to pack up my room and take me home. I'd sat over dinner only a week or two before that with my Godmother. A friend who has known me all my life sat across a table from me at Byron's saying that what I needed, was a distraction. Something in my life that I love and can look forward to every week no matter how grey and dreary the rest of the days seem to be. She spoke of a choir. A company run by two lovely ladies and she knew someone who sang with them. A friend who loves it, and who once a week, no matter the weather or the bad day behind her, heads off to a room filled with a bunch of people, once strangers, now friends. A friend who sings her heart out for two hours each week and performs in the most amazing shows. She sings musicals, Disney, a bit of this, a bit of that. I'd love it. I was sure I would...but I knew I wouldn't do anything. I'd just go back to my room and try and block out the world again.

Two Months later and there I was. Pimlico, first rehearsal. Meeting and greeting a group of strangers, who's names I was surely never going to learn, laughing, and smiling! It's 6 months on now and I can't say I remember much about those first few rehearsals. There were many getting-to-know-you type games and many instances where, as we began to sing old numbers, sung before by the majority, I felt I was never going to be good enough. I can't read music so I would never be able to learn 'Shake it off' or that one I really like...the one about Holy Cows and liking someone's eyes. But each week, my confidence grew. I'd go home, spend any free time I had listening to the rehearsal tracks, looking at the lyrics, and I'd stand taller the next Tuesday, singing to my hearts content.

Look at the likes! Get the reference?
My first performance was in March. A cabaret event. My mum, godmother and friend sat in the front row, just in front of the stage where I stood shoulder to shoulder with my new favourite group of people. I loved being up there, on the stage, the vague silhouettes of an audience in front, OneRepublic's lyrics echoing throughout the room. I loved hearing the solos and the voices of the other choirs, seeing a confidence shine out of people who's voices may not always have felt so loud.

Why so serious? Because we're waiting...or counting stars
That's what we are, you see, we're a group of people, ordinary, working or studying people, who go through life's ups and downs: Break-ups, babies, weddings, losing jobs, getting new ones, moving house and losing people we care about. We're human and we don't pretend that we're not. We sit, a group of us, in the pub before rehearsal and drink and eat while we talk about our week. Congratulate friends on their successes and commiserate for things that have been lost. We're a force to be reckoned with: you hurt one, you hurt us all. You help one and we'll all be there to thank you, we'll just do it through the art of singing.

Half way through rehearsal and we'll sit, cakes in hand, catching up, having a laugh, before we carry on singing. Cake is all the more important when you're starting choreography...this I have learnt...Choreography is hard when you fail to identify your left from your right...this I have also learnt. Forte, I love. This...I know.

Then this week, brought round the last rehearsal of the term. The last rehearsal until September when I will no longer call myself a baby Starling in the nest of Forte I call home. New people will join and I'll be part of the group that, 6 months ago, made me fall in love with singing all over again. Yet, while I'm celebrating my new status of the old rather than the new, the end of a year is the time at which we must wave some of the Starlings goodbye. Rehearsal on Tuesday was beautiful. Full of laughter and love. From the warm up activity where a hug was given to all of those in the room, to the final moment at the end where we hugged Laura, our Starling flying the nest. We hugged and we sang.

I love you all my Forte Family
The thing about Forte though, and Starling Arts as a whole, is that there is never really a goodbye. Once you've hatched into the nest, you're family and there's no turning back. Tuesday was sad but when you're a Starling, you're a Starling for life.

As we sang, and we said goodbye, I realised, for the first time, how different I am compared to when I walked through those doors in January. We stood round the piano, and the words surrounded my head and made me smile. Six months ago, on a Tuesday evening, I would have just finished a day of lectures and seminars, during which I would have felt ten times stupider than the week before, if that was even possible. I would probably be sitting in my room or lying on my bed, trying to psyche myself up to do anything, whether it be trying to read the notes I don't understand for Friday, or even find myself some food. Two Hours later and I'd probably still have been sitting in the same spot, probably crying and probably struggling, ever-so-slightly, to breathe.

...and my Starling Arts family


I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

So thank you Forte. Thank you for helping me to breathe again, and most importantly, for putting a smile back on my face.

I know I am who I am today because I know you.

I mean? What's not to love about this bunch of crazy humans!
Holy Cow, I love you all!

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