My daughter sings in the chamber choir at her school, which is having a big anniversary celebration at the Barbican next month. It's a girls school, so they're perennially short of tenors and basses, with the result that somehow, I've been inveigled into joining the tenor section.

If you're a web afficionado, you'll know the word "newbie" used by tech geeks to describe, usually with derision, people who are new to the web or to a particular site. Let's be clear: when it comes to choral singing, I'm a newbie. Although I sing a fair amount, I've never had a singing lesson, never learned to sight-sing a note, and the last time I sang in a choir was over 40 years ago in school (mind you, that was for the première in Westminster Central Hall of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, so at least I can claim to be going for the big occasions).

My first rehearsal is happening in a few hours time, so there's been frantic practice over the week-end using all the technology I can get my hands on, i.e. a download of Zadok the Priest that I can sing along with and a MIDI file of the tenor part that can be slowed down to half speed: essential for those tricky semiquaver runs that Handel is so fond of.

Simply singing along to the recording of Zadok (properly, reading the score and so forth) makes me feel totally different about the music, particularly about its immense sense of propulsion. After a brief biblical opening line, the words consist more or less entirely of repeats of "God save the King", "Amen" and "Alleluia". Given that I'm broadly atheist and republican, it ought to be seriously unpromising material. But it isn't: the music just takes me by the scruff of the neck and carries me with it. I shall be singing my heart out.

Not sure if I'm going to survive the first rehearsal intact - singing this stuff really is quite difficult if you've never done anything like it before. If I get through to it, however, I'm expecting the concert to be a truly amazing experience. I'm hearing lots about a real flowering of choral singing in England at the moment: if this is the kind of power that one's getting hold of, I can see why!

25th January 2010