Sing while you work

Yesterday evening I was entranced once again by the latest episode of choir master Gareth Malone’s current show, The Choir. Ostensibly about Gareth’s drive to create workplace choirs at 5 different organisations across Britain, for me the show is really about communication and engagement.

From the nursery rhymes Gareth asks them to sing at audition, to the way choir members react to each other according to job title and the meaning that singers convey through the lyrics, this show is all about how people relate to each other and their workplace. And following #TheChoir on Twitter tells you a lot about the programme’s communication with its audience too.

The workplaces that Gareth visits this series are P&O Ferries, Birmingham City Council, Sainsbury’s, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Citibank; a good mix of corporates and public sector (as a disclaimer, I should point out that I do know the editing of the programme is very clever, nothing is black and white). There are still a couple of weeks to go, with the knock-out stages of the competition still to come. No doubt there is more drama and communication from these organisations to come!

Some of my most interesting moments from the series so far:

  • Two choir members who had never met before in person but had regularly argued over email, by their own admission reaching stalemate and not getting anywhere – they met in person and saw each other as ‘real’ and not just a barrier being difficult on purpose.
  • Support staff unsettled by finding themselves on a level playing field in the choir with colleagues who they had always seen as doing the ‘real’ work of their organisation, despite their own roles being central to keeping everything going.
  • Field workers referring to Head Office as Head Office “because that’s what it is”, despite those based in Head Office insisting it should be given a more egalitarian name.
  • Seeing the emotion that singing brings out in singers and their audience when the lyrics have a meaning that is communicated to all.
  • The preconceptions and judgements shown on Twitter, based solely on the organisation that someone works for.
  • Gareth’s total belief in the power of singing to connect, engage and communicate and the variety of ways in which he conveys that to others.
  • So there you have it. Lots of food for thought for organisations of all types, whether they have a workplace choir or not…..

    Until next time

    2 thoughts on “Sing while you work”

    1. Hi Sarah, a great post – and interesting insights.
      I too was really struck by the re-naming of ‘Head Office’. Perhaps an illustration of how easily messages can be diluted if they don’t resonate with everyone. Or just don’t quite “fit”, somehow. I’ve also found it interesting to see how different all the choirs are. The culture of each company is unmistakeable!
      In my work I see again and again how something as simple as singing with colleagues has a remarkable impact on everyone involved. It breaks barriers, flattens hierarchy, and creates a real sense of common purpose as colleagues work together to create something from nothing. There’s no fancy equipment; just their voices.
      And finally: a two-fold disclaimer on the above… First, I run Chirp – an organisation that provides workshops that use singing to develop teams. And second, I worked in telly for twelve years or so before leaving to start Chirp. I’m quite impressed at that double bias!

    2. Thanks for your comment, Kamala. It’s great to hear from someone who is using singing to bring people together in the workplace – very powerful to see the culture coming through, I imagine.


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