My Herts Life: Pippa Gearing, Rock Choir leader
PUBLISHED: 16:09 24 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:09 24 March 2014
Old Hatfield musician Pippa Gearing leads four Rock Choirs in the region, part of a national contemporary choir movement that has drawn thousands of people to singing
What does a Rock Choir leader do? I teach choirs in Welwyn Garden City, Dunstable, Amersham and Hemel Hempstead. We rehearse weekly in term time, learning the harmonies of well-known, uplifting songs. I encourage professionalism and energy on the stage, and urge my members to smile and believe in what they’re singing about. We perform at local theatres and charity events, and on bigger stages such as Wembley.
What’s the best thing about your job? My favourite thing in the world is harmony. Even at school, I was never interested in the main tune and was always inventing a harmony. At Rock Choir, I can teach the harmonies and share all my experience and knowledge of music.
Is music in your blood? My mother Caryll Newnham is a very successful classical singer and my dad John D Collins is an actor. The piano and violin were my childhood, which was filled with classical music. I hoped to be a professional violinist and follow in the footsteps of my grandfather who played viola in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I studied music at the University of Manchester, where I met my husband Tom. Through him I fell into the world of singing. Before Rock Choir, Tom and I were running a children’s stage school in Ashwell. After five years I was looking to do something different and wanted to work with adults. I was offered the Rock Choir job on the spot, which was lovely, and fell in love with it straight away.
What have been the highlights? Best so far has been recording at Abbey Road, probably the most iconic studios in the world. I took all four choirs separately over one weekend. It was utter joy. I also loved our first visit to Wembley when we sang on the pitch for a Saracens rugby match. There was a capacity crowd of 90,000. And singing with Natasha Beddingfield with the Hemel choir at the O2 was brilliant too.
What songs are dear to your heart? I never get bored of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. It says everything about reaching goals and aiming high. And I will always love Anytime You Need a Friend. It’s beautiful. I get goose bumps when the choirs sing it. Anything by Stevie Wonder is genius. Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade is probably my favourite piece of all. In The Rockabellas, it’s the most complicated arrangement we do.
The Rockabellas? Sarah Lindsey, Lizzie Deane and I are a trio modelled on the Andrews Sisters. We give modern songs a retro stamp. They could be anything from Rhianna to Radiohead, all in six-inch heels and with choreography as well. I absolutely love it.
What’s next? At Rock Choir, the opportunities will get bigger as we get better. On a personal level, I’d love to be in a West End show and sing the backing vocals for someone really famous like Aretha Franklin or Celine Dion, just to experience that side of the industry.