1-7 June 2022 is Volunteers’ Week. This is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. The London Philharmonic Choir is and has always been run by its members, who volunteer not just as singers but also as company directors and charity trustees. Soprano and Marketing Manager, Jenni Cresswell, tells us what volunteering means to her.
A country run by volunteers
It still amazes me just how many things – events, places, sports teams, groups run because of volunteers. Some are obvious, but there are so many roles that I’m just blown away when I discover that it’s being done by a volunteer, especially when thinking about the responsibility that comes with some of these roles and the amount of time they can take up. “I volunteer because someone volunteered for me.” This quote comes from someone I know, who volunteers for the Scouts by producing the local Gang Show every year. It was only once I read this that I thought about and realised just how many amazing people had volunteered for me when I was younger.
I’ve been singing in groups since I started school, and was lucky enough to have to teacher who ran a choir in my Infant school. When I was 8, a wonderful lady set up a singing group at our local church. We were called the Southdown Minstrels, had t-shirts made and regularly sang at our church, as well as doing concerts at other local churches in the circuit. We had groupies and everything! As we all grew older Monica grew her groups with us. As we started to learn instruments she set up a band, and as we moved into secondary school she set up an older branch of the Minstrels. By this point she was running three rehearsals every week (not including the adult church choir and the ad-hoc bell plate rehearsals she threw in for special events, and the musicals she helped put on every few years). All voluntary! Without this incredible sacrifice and hard work there is not a chance I would be doing the job I am doing today as a primary music specialist.
Giving back to my community
When I left university and moved back home I started volunteering with the Brownies. My Granny had been a Brown Owl and my Mum was currently running a Guide Company. She was ready to stop so the deal was that I would volunteer in her place so she didn’t have to feel guilty about stopping! Almost 20 years later and I’m now running that Brownie pack and can’t even begin to count the number of girls I’ve enrolled along the way. My Brown Owl still lives locally, now in her 90s she still regularly attends local Girl Guiding events. As my life has changed so have the volunteering opportunities. A few weeks ago I completed a hygiene certificate so that I can bake for a local outdoor playgroup that I attend with my three year old. I also lead the singing sessions for this group, matching songs to the theme of the week.
Supporting the British choral tradition
The British choral tradition relies on volunteers everywhere. There must be hundreds of choral society librarians up and down the country with piles of music stacked up in living rooms and on dining room tables, checking them in and out and sorting them and chasing the ones that haven’t been returned. I know that my parent’s house has looked like this and currently does again as my Mum volunteers to help the librarian of her choir.
I also volunteer for my choir, the London Philharmonic Choir. I am on the board of trustees as Marketing Manager. I am absolutely certain that I am not the most qualified member of the choir for this job, but I am the person who volunteered to take it on and give it a go. I think this is the most important thing to remember when volunteering – just to give it a go. If you are working alongside supportive people (an essential for volunteering in my eyes) then you learn and develop on the job. I am really proud of some of the features that I have put together – especially all the posts highlighting our NHS and key workers during the fist lockdown. When you ask people to write posts for you, it is such a privilege to be the first person to read, quite often, very personal accounts, and know what joy other people are going to get from reading them. My volunteering over the years has fitted around a full time job, and currently fits around a part time job and looking after my 3 year old. It’s not always easy, but without any volunteers our choir would not run and that is motivation enough to get me going and sorting out the things I need to be doing. I volunteer, not just because someone volunteered for me, but also because of the people that volunteer for me now, and the love I have for singing coupled with the knowledge that if no one volunteered, LPC simply would not run.
Come and hear us
Wednesday 31 August 2022
7.30 pm, Royal Albert Hall
Edward Gardner conductor
Jamie Barton mezzo-soprano
Allan Clayton tenor
James Platt bass
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Philharmonic Choir