When I heard that award winning musician Camilo Menjura had started a new choir at the Calthorpe Project, Kings Cross, I decided it would definitely be worth checking out. Though the choir is in its early stages and has only been up and running for a month, new people are joining every week and it’s causing a bit of a stir.
Camilo Menjura, the organiser who won ‘Musician of the year’ and ‘Community Worker of the Year’ at the Latin UK Awards 2012-13, is a professional musician and guitarist, originally from Colombia. He has always had a passion for vocals and wanted to start a project to create a space for all nationalities to sing, for the love of it, as well as conducting the activity as a good community practice, whilst giving people the possibility to learn or practice Spanish. Camilo’s also been running a Children’s choir on Sundays, which has been very successful.
‘LOLCHOIR‘, as the project is called, is about having fun while learning. Camilo explains. “People tend to think ‘LOL’ stands for ‘laughing out loud’, but I actually thought of it as ‘Landscape of Latin America’. The idea of the choir is to have a repertoire focused on Latin American songs, but the group is not just for people who speak Spanish.” Camilo adds, “I wanted to be able to show the richness of Latin American songs to anyone who is interested.”
The choir is normally made up of about 16-20 people at any one time. This proves to be a really good number, there’s no chance of feeling like the odd one out, but it’s a small enough group to make friends easily.
Each session starts with stretching and warming up the vocal muscles. Participants learn a new song every week, which means that newcomers can join in anytime. Camilo goes through the lyrics little by little; translating each word and making sure the intonations are in the right place. Before you know it, you have not only learnt a whole new song, but if you’re not a native Spanish speaker, a song full of new words as well!
Speaking to Camilo, it’s easy to tell he is very passionate about what he does. Observing him throughout the session, I could see he had a great teaching style, a truly warm and friendly personality, and an obvious rapport with his students.
I spoke to one enthusiastic choir member, Tamara Colver Rodriguez, who commutes to the session all the way from Tooting. “It’s great,” she said, “You need to enjoy your life and cheer yourself up, especially in winter. Camilo works miracles!”
No previous choral experience is required to attend, and everyone is welcome. This is a really unique, inclusive and positive community experience, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they speak Spanish or not.
Sessions run on Wednesdays 7.30-9.30 at Kings Cross, Calthorpe Project, Grays Inn Road.
LOLChoir will have a Christmas Concert in early December. More details www.lolchoir.com.
By: Melinda Szucs