'Tarts' are coming to Fiveways

 Jam Tarts full choirg.gif

 On Saturday 29th November, Hanover-based choir Jam Tarts will be coming to Fiveways to sing at St. Matthias Church. The Church has organised a series of fund-raising community concerts this year.

Choir director Li Mills explains the history of the Tarts:

"We have a deep-seated desire to sing something a bit more challenging than Hop Little Rabbits; ‘can't you do a singing group for US?' asked some of the parents at Baby Jam, my baby and toddler music group. And that's how we started.

I'd run Baby Jam, an anarchic but strangely popular music group (my babies all know the words of Anarchy In The UK and are fluent in the actions for YMCA by the age of 2) for years. I'd also taught music and drama in primary schools for a decade, but had never taught adults. Weren't they a bit scary? I nervously agreed to give it a go for 4 sessions, with 12 adults. They just wouldn't go away. 4 years later there are 45 Jam Tarts, with a long waiting list.

The initial bunch claimed they NEVER EVER wanted to perform, but eventually agreed to show ‘a few friends and family' what they'd been up to on a Tuesday night. 250 people turned up at St. Nick's on Dyke Road and I nearly had a breakdown fishing kids out of the font and unpeeling dozens of squished mince pies from the polished floor whilst simultaneously conducting. It was a steep learning curve but they caught the performance bug. We've gone from strength to strength, learning together and finding what suits us. I've learnt how to wave my arms in the air without feeling like a self-conscious loony, and they've learned to sing Morrissey not so poshly.

Now we mostly sing big choral arrangements of indie pop songs, including Nick Cave, The Smiths, The Las, Supergrass; and are currently working on a 6 part arrangement of a Leonard Cohen number (which goes round and round in my head all night). We have been known to break into a bit of Abba for a laugh. Some songs are accompanied, some a capella. The choir have become more and more professional and our latest CD, Sets On The Beach, whilst not likely to make it to number one, is pretty darned good. There are no auditions but people generally come to our gigs before joining so have an idea of the standard. We rehearse for two hours a week, starting with vocal warm-ups and technical exercises, and usually end up in the pub (to lubricate the vocal cords..).

Building on the Tarts' success, cos you can't ever have enough of a good thing, there is now a sister choir, Wham Jam Thank You Ma'am, who meet during the day. Next summer I plan to mix both choirs together for a gig with full backing band. Members of both choirs also take part in one-off workshops such as Posh Jam (classical choral stuff), Jammy Dodgers (kids and parents choir) and any other Jams I might run, which are all open to non-choir members too.

As ever, women outnumber men in the choirs, but the whole country is gradually taking part in a singing revolution, waking up to the fact that singing is really enjoyable, and unlike say chocolate or beer, is also fantastically good for you, physically, mentally and emotionally. It's a real release and it's also very sociable. We all love being Tarts, men and women alike.

Most of the gigs we do are for charity, and over the years we've raised funds for Amnesty International, Shelter, Nigel Porter Unit and St. Patrick's Night Shelter. The last gig raised a substantial wad for Billy Bragg's charity, Jail Guitar Doors, which takes instruments and music workshops into prisons. We were pleased to be asked to come and sing for the fund-raising concert at St. Matthias and hope you'll come along. Now, must get on with that 6-part arrangement of Hop Little Rabbits.

For details of the concert see next month's issue.

For more info about Jam Tarts, Wham Jam, Baby Jam or any of Li's courses, phone her on 601123 or email limills68@hotmail.com



Posted: 17th of September 2008