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International Profiles: Londoner brings international voices together in Bonn

International Profiles : Londoner brings international voices together in Bonn

She is a musician from London but her passion is people. Tanya Talbot founded the International Voices Choir six years ago - it has become a huge success.

There is no doubt Londoner Tanya Talbot loves music: she is an accomplished pianist and violinist, studied music at university and has completed courses in conducting. But her real passion is people and she loves bringing them together through shared activities like singing. “Friendships in an international community are not based on national traditions, cultural similarities or a common past,” says Talbot.

“They develop out of shared experiences.” Talbot’s International Voices Choir is certainly testament to her people skills. Formed in 2010, the community choir has grown from a small group of 12 to the over 85 members of various nationalities who will be singing in this year’s Christmas concert in the Bonn cathedral. “But it’s not about the numbers, or even the expertise,” says Talbot.

“It’s about bringing people together with a common goal and a shared sense of endeavour and purpose. And you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, so it’s great for people who don’t have much English: music is the common language.” Talbot approached Bonn International School (BIS) about an adult community choir after her family moved to Bonn from London with her husband’s job six years ago.

Back home, as well as working as a primary school teacher specialising in music, she had also been the director of a children’s community choir and various conducting courses had given her experience with adult choirs. “We arrived in Bonn during the coldest winter in 50 years; it snowed every day for six weeks. I had no German skills, no friends and no understanding of the rules. I got shouted at every day for doing something wrong: not clearing snow, parking my car the wrong way or putting the wrong bins out.

I was miserable. Of course now I love Bonn, the orderliness and the fact it’s so safe for our kids. ” BIS was delighted to support the choir and it now plays an important role in bringing adults in the school community together. But there are also many members from outside the school as well as a twenty strong men’s choir and a smaller chamber choir that tackles harder pieces. So do you need to be especially musical to join? “Absolutely not,” says Talbot. “The choir is open to all. It’s all about bringing people together and singing is a great leveller.”

What she loves most is the inclusiveness of a community choir. Some members are high-flying professionals and others are stay-at-home parents and she was especially delighted when a member of the school catering team joined. Over the years, the International Voices Choir has performed in Cologne Cathedral, at the Petersberg and in La Redoute, as well as having regular slots at the Bonn and Niederich Christmas markets. And there have been a fair few hiccups along the way. “We’ve had pianos where notes don’t play, birds pooing on singers’ heads and sudden storms during outdoor performances, mad drunks leaping round the stage and countless technical failures, but once the music starts, you just have to keep going,” says Talbot.

She likens conducting to being a swan in water: on top all is serene and in control but underneath you are paddling away furiously to keep everything going smoothly. Her involvement is completely voluntary and takes a lot of her time. What keeps her going? “Of course, it’s incredibly satisfying to hear the choir develop, but the real highlights are the small, unexpected moments and the lovely things people say,” says Talbot. “At one concert someone told my dad I was putting all the therapists out of business because the choir made people so happy.

And one lovely Japanese lady, who always sat by herself and spoke very little, sent me an email to say how choir gave her the opportunity to sing with all her heart and relieve her stress. I don't need any other reason to continue.” International Voices Choir rehearses at BIS on Mondays from 15.45-17.00.For more information and details of their upcoming Christmas concert go to https://www.facebook.com/IVCBonn/