Wednesday, November 01, 2006


On Monday night some emails flitted by me which may not have been meant for me (though one was an invitation to a party on Saturday...but when I asked the sender if I was invited [I did not know the lady] I did not get a reply...:-(). One of them mentioned singing. This sounded interesting. Not that I have sung seriously for years.

I enquired further and found that there are two groups of foreigners singing; one sings Georgian songs, the other sings European stuff. Unfortunately both groups have decimated in size so they now sing together....but there seem to be slight cultural and conceptual differences, so that's interesting.

When I told my colleagues that I was going to singing that evening, one of them said 'You are going to sink?' (It's the only place where her accent, with the hard 'g' can lead to misunderstandings). She continued 'do you have a professional musical education?'. I felt a little hurt at this point. Clearly the myth that amateurs have no business making music is alive and well in Georgia.

It needs to be explained here that Georgian songs (I am sure the right word is not 'songs') is something like Gregorian chant of about 500 years ago; it seems to be transmitted from generation to generation and singer to singer only verbally; there are no notes. This makes people like me uncomfortable, because if you sing in the three voices that they have (high, middle, low) and you have the middle voice, it's a bit harder remembering it. What happens is that one person sings ahead of you, and you try frantically to remember your part (of a whole song) while she sings the other parts for the other people. On the other hand, in the European music I had an advantage since it seemed not all participants could read music. At least for the Georgian music we had a couple of good Georgian singers who lead at least the two higher parts. The harmonies are not exactly Bachian but I could detect a system in it all.

So anyway, people drifted in in the course of an hour (this whole thing took place at someone's flat), and by the end there were about 10 of us, with a Norwegian guy, Sven, who is a trained choirmaster and who speaks fluent Georgian, doing the leading. One of the Georgian faction handed CDs of the songs to everyone so they could practice their part (for a Christmas concert). Generally people took it very seriously and they generally sang well. I found to my surprise that my voice had dropped; when I was young there was a point in my voice between middle a and g where the sound changed; this point has dropped to middle d and c, much like the change between violin and viola. The training of viola playing means that it is not too hard to keep to the middle line. There were three men including the leader; at least half the basses could not read music... but we chuntered along and had a great time. Got a lift home from a lovely and slightly anarchic French lady.

Might go again!