I love music. As far as my memory can recall I always did. I usually work with headphones on to block the sounds of an open plan office but also to get me in the flow of work. And it is not uncommon to find me humming a tune, even when at the office, or to see me quoting songs’ lyrics as metaphors for life.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to sing but ended up postponing that dream, mainly because my free time and energy only stretch so far. So I was saving my singing lessons for another time. Until one day everything changed.
Looking back, I did not understand that that particular day marked a change (it often happens in life that you only realize the impact of apparently trivial actions or events later in time). One fine day, as colleagues prepared the traditional office Christmas party where the organization and entertainment is entirely up to a dedicated team of employees, I “auditioned” for the project of a choir that would rehearse Christmas carols to perform at the party.
From that project, brilliantly managed by a colleague of mine with a music background, came the dream of something bigger: a permanent office choir, practicing every week and rehearsed by a professional singer as my colleague didn’t have the time to do that project on a regular basis.
That dream came true one year ago when the management team approved the initiative and officially the choir was born. After one year of rehearsals and some presentations at the office for several celebrations, we were invited to participate in a concert outside of office doors. And so, by the serendipitous power of a chain of connected people, our first major concert happened yesterday at Casa da Música, an ex-libris of the city of Porto and currently one of the most important concert halls in the country.
So on a Sunday afternoon, just before thousands of Porto natives and tourists took to the streets to celebrate St John’s, there we were: facing an estimate audience of 1000 people, performing together with other city choirs, two juvenile orchestras, some professional musicians and a communitarian orchestra of people who’s lives have not been easy but that, through music, find moments of joy and social interaction. We were there to help give voice to this wonderful project, singing about their hardships but also about the city we all LOVE!
It was an emotional day (and emotion I still feel writing these words), especially because I lost my voice due to a cold one week before the concert. I struggled to get better, spending long hours without speaking to try to recover, sleeping very badly but always determined to do everything I could to get good enough to sing as I couldn’t bare to miss this opportunity. Every day for the past week was a small victory on the road to recovery. And I made it!
In the end, it was a perfect combination of art, life and work (the title of my blog). And it was surely one of the best experiences of my life!
That such an experience could have come out of something that started as a one-off initiative for an office party and that later developed into an official company project is both curious and unexpected.
The effects of such a project on the ties between colleagues, our improved morale, the happiness contagion our smiley faces after rehearsals provoke, the joy we bring whilst performing and the goodwill it seems to bring to the company through “your company has a choir?” reactions more than justify the project (but, as you can imagine, I’m clearly biased ).
For some years now I’ve been a firm believer that side projects matter and those who know me well are very much aware of how many activities I juggle at times. They help me grow, meet new people, learn and develop new skills, and experience new things. Side projects matter… also at work.
Now it is time to check the photos, catch up with the videos, remember the moments well spent and start rehearsing for the next concert (yes, we’ve been invited to take part in another initiative).