Sing for Pleasure was founded in 1964, and was inspired by the international French-based organisation A Coeur Joie. Differences between the French approach and prevailing British styles of choral leadership were obvious from the start – A Coeur Joie rehearsals were unaccompanied and everyone had to listen and concentrate, with the conductors pitching notes from tuning forks and having to sing voice parts as necessary. The tutors insisted on individual lines being secure for all singers (even the less experienced ones) before moving on.
These ingredients – unaccompanied rehearsing, the importance of listening, concern for individual vocal lines and patience with the slower readers – became essential to SfP’s way of working. It seemed to produce more confident and accurate singing and to be preferable to what was happening in many British choirs, where singers had to hunt for notes against over-loud pianos, and where weak readers lost confidence.
It was not just the rehearsal techniques that made an impression on the founders of SfP. A Coeur Joie’s method of conductor training was well organised, thorough and practical; and the singers were introduced to new repertoire such as unknown Renaissance music, unaccompanied folk-song arrangements and interesting canons – it was apparent that a cappella singing need not be the prerogative of semi-professional or cathedral choirs but could be the norm for amateurs or children. There was also a certain spirit of comradeship, enhanced by a common repertoire that choirs could instantly sing together at events. This atmosphere has been absorbed by Sing for Pleasure and is now one of its most important features.
Throughout its life, SfP has retained its links and shared philosophies with A Coeur Joie. SfP members take part in the triennial choral festival in Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence, and ACJ tutors have visited the UK and joined the staff of SfP Summer Schools. Much has changed, grown and developed within SfP over the years, but the philosophies and aims remain the same – thanks to the enduring enthusiasm and vision of its members, tutors, staff and supporters.