Hulla runs during school term times, on a Monday night from 7- 9.30. There is a coffee break at about 8.15 which lasts for 15 minutes. The cost of a drink and biscuits is 30p. Please bring your own mug. About 6-7 weeks into a term (and twice if the term is long) there is a weekend rehearsal that lasts for about 5 hours with several tea and cake breaks! This is an important rehearsal and helps us put all the songs together. As we approach a gig, we extend Monday rehearsals by half an hour, usually the last 2 sessions before the show.
Songs can be arranged in anything from 3-6 parts. Soprano is the highest part, Alto is a little lower, Tenalto (our made up word) is a low alto, and then Bass and Tenor are the low parts. We sometimes have Baritone and we don’t always stick to these names! However, Bass isn’t necessarily the lowest (especially for women) and Tenor parts are sometimes lower than Bass so if you have a lower voice it might be a good idea to try both and see which works best for you. It’s always a good idea to make a note of which part you have learnt and the date at the top of your sheet of lyrics, to avoid confusion. In Hulla we tend to learn songs in small chunks for the first few weeks and then piece them all together as the term progresses. As a newbie, we encourage you to stand at the front, so you feel supported.
We expect that it may take you a while before you find the part
that suits you best, and that is fine. Usually, there is some flexibility to swap parts between songs. This term, however, there is no flexibility as the parts are set into tenor, bass, alto and soprano for all songs and there can be no movement between parts.
For rehearsals, we usually stand in a boomerang / half moon shape, loosely ranging from low to high with Kirsty at the front. Standing in the middle of your part and near the front is the best place to be so you can see Kirsty and are bolstered by the voices beside and behind you.
We sing a really wide range of songs from different musical genres. Many of these songs are arranged by our Musical Director, Kirsty Martin, and so are ‘hot off the press’ – never before sung by other choirs. Kirsty brings new arrangements and compositions to ‘try out’ on us and one of the joys of Hulla is being part of the evolution of these arrangements - it is important to be flexible and recognize that the arrangement are alive and might need to be tweaked / simplified / edited in some way as it develops. It’s all part of the process!
Another really enjoyable and unusual element of Hulla is that we collaborate with musicians. It is really exciting and creative – you often experience the arrangement being written right in front of you!
Our past collaborations include Oysterband, The Moulettes, Firefly Burning and O’Hooley & Tidow . This extended term we are excited to be presenting THE BIG SONG: one of our big adventures in 2017 - to be performed at Brighton Dome, as part of Brighton Festival, on Monday 22nd May 2017. It has been especially written for Hullabaloo by Heathcote Williams, narrated by Roy Hutchins, and with music written and arranged by Kirsty Martin. The Big Song includes a smorgasbord of stunning singing treats, from Ukranian frogs to Japanese fireflies, a spot of celestial, choral Holst, some rabble-rousing, Chumbawamba and a song from the iconic and inimitable Sweet Honey In the Rock......and that's just for starters!
Hullabaloo is a performance choir and so our focus is very much rehearsing for gigs. However, there are some who come to Hulla but don’t necessarily perform (though they come to gigs and are part of Hulla in other ways) I would strongly advise fighting the fear and taking the risk of that first gig. There is nothing like the buzz of being part of a big harmonious sound and the applause and sometimes surprise of the audience is addictive.
As we get closer to the gig, it all starts to come together. Kirsty calls this ‘the quickening’ – from the disparate, separate blocks of rehearsed sound comes the bigger picture, and we can see how one section segues into another etc. We usually surprise ourselves (and Kirsty, though she won’t admit it!) on the actual day. So my advice is: go for it! Hang on in there, learn your words (there are no word sheets allowed on stage) download and listen to the audio recordings from our website and ask if /when you are unsure of anything – no one will mind! We are all nervous but can achieve so much together.
It is always tough joining something new, especially when you do it on your own. We have all been there. Some of the Hulla members have been in the choir for over 10 years and may at times look very comfortable with their friends. You can be part of that as well but it takes time. We have a buddy system to ease your entry, and your Village Group (read on for more info!) is an excellent way to make friends and connections. Some of us go to the pub after choir on Monday (usually The Good Companions or The Crescent – both nearby). We will announce when we are going. By far the best way is by joining some of the weekend events such as the National Street Choirs Festival in June / July or Sing for Water in September. These events offer the opportunity to travel together and to share accommodation and it’s here where lasting friendships begin and that sense ofour choir community develops and strengthens.
Hullabaloo really is a community, and this applies to the organisational side of things as well as the singing. We encourage everyone to get involved in the running of the choir – from publicity and posters to decorating the hall for our concerts and even taking on tea duty! Each of the groups is called a ‘Village Group’ (because it takes a village to run Hulla!) and they have different focuses.
The groups are not compulsory, but we do strongly encourage you to join one. It doesn’t need to take much time and is brilliant for our sense of belonging and enthusiasm for our projects, not to mention helping us to function at our best. You will find out lots more about the Village Groups in the first few weeks of Quire.
Welcome aboard. We hope you have a wonderful time in Hulla…it is a joyful family for so many of us. Remember to bring a mug for tea, something to write with and on, and maybe some beer money!