Such stuff as dreams are made of

By Amira Chilvers, 1st Alto

I never thought of myself as a performer. I loved to sing, but like many people, I never really made it beyond the confines of the shower or the long car journey. I thought singing on stage was just for the elite few – the talented or the highly trained.

And yet, on a late September day in 2011, I spotted an advert for a new choir, just starting up, no auditions necessary, and thought: “Well, why not?” I reasoned to myself that it would just be a bit of fun. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had an image of community choirs as the sort of group that performed on a small scale for indulgent friends and family. But The Dowsing Sound Collective was never an ordinary community choir.

Nearly three years on, I look back and am amazed at what I have experienced with The Dowsing Sound Collective. I have heard a standing ovation and chants of “More! More!” at Great St Mary’s Church, hardly able to believe that the chants were for us. I have looked at a piece of music, thought: “We’ll never learn that in a million years,” and been proved utterly wrong. I have stood on the stage of the Cambridge Corn Exchange, the same stage that has hosted Queen and David Bowie, and battled with the rather challenging acoustic. I am listening to an EP that we recorded, my name and photograph included on the cover with the rest of the choir and band. I have marvelled at the musicianship of our band, all talented professionals who play with the joy and love of the best sort of amateur. I have sung a cover of a Rolling Stones song in an ancient place of worship. I have heard our voices reverberate through the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping space of Ely Cathedral. I have literally skipped off stage, high on the adrenalin buzz of performing together.

The scale of Andrea’s vision is immense – to take a non-auditioning choir to this level takes serious courage, not to mention skill. Our first concert was called Unpredictable and the journey we've taken since then has certainly been so. I have been guilty of sometimes hearing Andrea confidently state what we’re going to do next and thinking “you must be mad,” wondering if I’ve heard correctly, and doubting whether we can really do it. But somehow, thanks to Andrea’s dedication and enthusiasm, the behind-the-scenes work of the unsung heroes in the choir and the effort that we all collectively put in to being the best that we can be, we have risen to every challenge and gone so far beyond the limits of what we thought was possible that I still shake my head in disbelief.

I’m not a performer. I’m not a professional. I’m an ordinary person who stumbled on an advert one day in Cambridge. I never thought I would find myself standing on stage in Ely Cathedral amid 100 other (extra)ordinary people, from all walks of life, creating moments of musical magic.

Unpredictable? Yes. Unbelievable? Sometimes. Unforgettable? Absolutely.

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