Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Spooky Times in Liverpool with Stephen Taberner

Last weekend, to the fine city of Liverpool, and a singing workshop led by the extraordinarily talented Stephen Taberner, Spookmeister. ( If you haven't seen or heard the Spooky Men's Chorale, with their beautifully-sung subversions of stereotypical masculinity, then hie thee to YouTube.)

The Chorale, above.

He taught us lovely songs over an evening and two days, and we ended up with a brief performance in the Walker Art Gallery. He described us as "The choir that is and now is no more." We'd never met up before, and he got an astonishingly good sound out of us. And now we are no more - we were unique, once-off, in the moment or two.

Above: Stephen threatening us with violence if we don't pull it together...in fact he is an extraordinarily productive mix of firmness and gentleness, huge skill and creative guile.

Now then: what has all this to do, I hear you say (it'd be nice to hear anyone say anything around here these days apart from me...) what has this to do with my usual themes of mindfulness, spirituality (whatever that means these days) living in the moment, and funerals?

A great deal.

I find singing in this sort of style, especially with what for me was demanding singing, can create a warmth, a sense of release and acceptance. It frees off something broader and calmer than the usual me, it keeps me in the moment. 

We also sang in some wonderful places, such as the Lutyens Crypt of the Metropolitan (i.e.Roman Catholic) Cathedral, below:

and the Dome Theatre. The locations certainly helped.

Such singing in a funeral creates a space in which people can feel what they feel, a release sometimes for their grief. That's why we need more funeral singers like Threnody (see a couple of posts from a celebrant involved with them, on the Good Funeral Guide blog: 

Not the formal, immaculate, traditional eg Male Voice type choir, wonderful though they are - that's too distancing for many of today's funerals. A community-type choir, people singing in their natural voice, in harmony. It draws the congregation in.

Such singing has in it a lot of love. Not "lurve," but - caritas. Compassion. Unselfish warmth. 

I felt really uplifted by singing a song by a friend of Stephen's, Rachel Hore, called "Love is Born." I think that title describes what happens when the singing is going really well.

If this sounds a bit solemn - it's also really, really good fun!


or "Choir at the Walker" on YouTube


  1. There are lots and lots of choirs singing away all over Britain, looking for gigs. I know funeral times are not work-friendly, but you'd have thought there'd be a corpus of them available to sing at funerals. It's disappointing how many community activities stop short of death.

    Sounds like a darn good weekend, GM.

  2. Yes, you'd think so Charles - your wider point obtains and makes me think it's yet another consequence of making funerals - indeed, death and its aftermath - a specialised matter best left to "professionals."

  3. Wish you lived nearer! Magic stuff.

  4. Sure was, thanks Ms Guinness!

  5. And yes, it would be very pleasant to be able to help you with that second glass of Guinness…