Sunday, 4 May 2014

Starting Norfolk Signing Choir: By Eleanor

My First Signing Choir


Ever since I’ve been learning to sign I’ve become more and more absorbed in the ‘deaf world’. As well as using BSL with my communicator in the classroom, I’ve also been teaching signs to the young children as I continue through my PGCE training. Just a few weeks ago I finished at my first placement school and we had to perform an end-of-term play. Being in a reception class, this meant that the majority of the play was with singing which turned out to be a complete delight. I can’t sing myself and it is something I refuse to do unless I’ve got alcohol in my system.


 The reason the school play songs were an absolute delight was because it gave me the chance to sign along to the songs. I half expected the children not to be too bothered, and to be fair, not all of them were enthused about signing as I was but some of them completely surprised me. The amount of practising we did (mainly for singing rather than the signing aspects) was crazy, the amount of ‘quick ten minutes’ here and ‘super quick five minutes’ there was mad. It got to the point where I was in a classroom supervising break-time and I could see a young girl signing all the songs without the music, without singing to her friends. It was a heart-skipping moment, and if I watched her any longer I may have shed a tear. It was so beautiful to see these hearing children open their eyes and heart to sign language.


 It made me remember a time when I used to love singing in school, however badly and out of tune I was, it really didn’t matter when you were 4 or 5. It made me think about watching people on YouTube sign along to music, particularly the infamous Lee and really wanting to be a part of that. I was talking to my communicator about how much I really wanted to be a part of a signing choir and it was difficult with the limited amount of choirs in this area. I know there is one in Kings Lynn but they get together at awkward times for me. I wanted a choir where it didn’t matter if you didn’t know sign language, where it didn’t matter how old you were – because those children that I taught in a reception class were amazing and so motivated to join in. That love and passion for something quite often dies away as you get older, yet when you’re a child, the magic lasts forever, no matter how many times you repeat a song.


 My communicator (Claire) really surprised me with her response. She said ‘Why don’t you make your own?’ I was really taken aback by this, how could I make my own? I’m not an expert in BSL and at the best of times I use SSE (Sign Supported English) more so than BSL. How would I be able to know when to start a song, if I forget the words I can’t pick it up again by listening to the music, how could it possibly work?

 A few days passed and I mentioned that I was still thinking about this, how I could possibly make my own Signing Choir and she surprised me yet again by saying how she would love to start one up too, perhaps we could work together. The conversation instantly changed from how would it work, to how could we attract people? I no longer had the worry of translating because I knew I had her support no matter what, and from first-hand experience, I knew that she would be my cue when I forget the words or I miss the start of the lyrics.


 From that, Norfolk Signing Choir was born. I have to point out that it is REALLY early days but I am so happy. I designed a flyer and posted it on Facebook to every deaf group that I’m a part of, I started looking at sign song videos on YouTube to see how others were doing it and thinking what songs could we do. I started telling people, no matter who they were, hoping that they would pass the message through. I started enquiring about where we could have these meetings. I am so lucky for Charley South and her kind offer of using the Brickmakers Pub in Norwich.


 Yesterday, Saturday 3rd May was the day of the first practise. I was really nervous because I wasn’t sure if anyone was coming. Quite often, people want to come but can’t make it, or are very nervous about coming to the ‘first’ event. So, I was so happy to see some new faces come through the door! Claire is our ‘conductor’ and we had a fab time learning part of a song. We didn’t manage to finish a song, but for the first event we did fabulously! I really, really enjoyed myself and that was what my aim for this Signing Choir was/is. From other comments, it seems that everyone else enjoyed it too! Thank you guys, for coming and joining in, and I can't wait to practise the rest of the song :)


 We are now in the stages of planning our next meeting, I don’t want to say any dates until we are absolutely sure but we are planning on having a practise once a month every month on Saturday at 2pm finishing around 3.30pm. Please, come and join in, we are open to all ages, all abilities and all sense of humours!! Find us on facebook @ Norfolk Signing Choir.



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  2. Hi Eleanor. I really enjoy reading your posts. I have been making a board on Exeter Deaf Academy's Pinterest of signed songs if you wanted to have a look I hope your choir continues to be as great as your first meeting. Sadly Norfolk is quite far from Exeter!