I’m not the best singer in the world. I can carry a tune, but I wouldn’t have the record labels falling over themselves to sign me up. Like most Irish people, I don’t let this lack of finesse stand in the way of my launching into song at any opportunity – and in common with a lot of Irish people, the voice benefits hugely from occasional lubrication with a few gargles. I also have a temperamental car radio that drops all stations when I drive more than five kilometres out of Limerick city. No matter: I willingly become my own entertainment for the rest of the journey. I’m lucky enough too to have talented musician friends – keyboards, flutes, guitars – who turn every get-together into a singsong.
Over the years I attempted to join choirs. By and large, my auditions ended in failure. I can’t sight read, which was a big stumbling block for a few. Another choir was far too prestigious to consider the likes of me: I suspect my choice of You Do Something To Me as my audition song meant I was doomed before I opened my gob. Eventually I found a home in a large community choir – but after a few months of trying to keep my end up in the altos I bowed out. I discovered I didn’t have the commitment, or the discipline, to justify my presence there: I prefer my singing to be looser and more spontaneous.
At the launch of The Reunion, my last book, I had a terrific Limerick-based Gospel choir providing the entertainment. One of the choir members happened to work in the bookshop that hosted the launch, and she’d suggested that they come along. They raised the roof as I signed my new book, had everyone swaying and foot-tapping along. There and then, despite my own not-so-illustrious history with choirs in general, I decided that my next book would be based around a choir. Before the night was out I even had my title: The Choir.
It didn’t quite work out like that. My characters decided that they didn’t all want to be singers, thanks very much, so I had to push the choir to the side and feature it as an added extra rather than the main course. Instead of the characters all knowing one another to some extent – as they would have if they were all in the choir – some were complete strangers to one another, at the start anyway. It wasn’t a big deal: on the contrary, it gave me more scope for story lines.
I did try to hang on to the music theme as much as I could, though. There’s a relationship in the book that has echoes of Tony and Maria’s in West Side Story. One of the main characters, Molly, sings as she cycles to work in the sunshine. (She is in the choir.) Christopher, the choir director, has tried and failed to make it as a singer-songwriter, but music still runs through his veins, whether he likes it or not. Christopher’s neighbour, alternative children’s author Freddie, plays the ukulele (to his horror).
Ironically, the launch of The Street Where You Live on June 14 will feature no music – unless any of the kind souls who come along to lend their support decide to burst into spontaneous song. There will be plenty of singing later, when we migrate down the road to a local wine bar. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Limerick city, do join us. I promise you won’t have to sing – unless you really want to.
And you do, don’t you?
(c) Roisin Meaney
About The Street Where You Live:
It’s the hottest heatwave in years and as preparations for an end-of-summer concert get underway, the notes soar. But so, too, do the scandals and secrets …
Choir member Molly sees a young boy who she’s convinced is her grandson, but how does she find out the truth when her son Philip ran away to New Zealand five years ago?
Meanwhile Molly’s daughter Emily has fallen in love for the second time in her life. Except this time it’s with the wrong man …
While choir leader Christopher, who closed off his heart to love a long time ago, is making do with snatched trysts with new member Jane – who also happens to be married. But then American author Freddie moves in next door and suddenly things begin to get complicated.
As performance night approaches, the heatwave breaks and members of the choir discover that their lives intertwine more than they could ever have imagined. But are the inhabitants of the town ready for what happens next?
Order your copy online here.