MEC #Thrive Series Part 2: Making MEC Pitch Perfect with Susanna Cousins

Our #thrive series is focused on celebrating MEC’ers passions and talents and finding out how they utilise those as part of their contribution to MEC and its culture. In part 1 we spoke to Noel Mellor who had written a book about the world of VHS, and now for part 2 we chatted to Susanna Cousins, Comms Planning Director at MEC London, who brought her passion for music to MEC in a truly unique way!

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Q. When did you discover you had a passion for singing?

A. I used to sing when I was a kid and I did a lot of musicals at university, but when I moved to London and started “real life” I just forgot about singing for about 10 years.  Then, about 4 years ago, I spotted a poster up in the café of the company I used to work for, asking for people to come and sing carols at Christmas to raise money for charity and it went from there. I then joined an amateur choir in the city, and about 18 months ago I auditioned for the choir I sing with now, Crouch End Festival Chorus. So far we’ve sung at a BBC Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, recorded backing vocals for two albums at Abbey Road Studios, and in November I’ll be part of a backing choir for Andrea Bocelli at the O2 – It’s a big commitment, but it’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience.

Q. What inspired you to bring that into MEC by launching the MEC Choir, and how did you go about it?

It was a work choir that got me back into choral singing, which lead me on to some incredible experiences so I wanted to bring that to MEC and help other people rekindle their love of singing, or simply find it.  It really started when composer Eric Whitacre came and gave a brilliantly inspiring speech at MEC in Motion in Nice, showing his amazing virtual choir work (http://www.youtube.com/user/EricWhitacresVrtlChr).  People really responded to him, which made me think that there was an appetite for doing something musical in MEC. I also knew it was a brilliant way to get to know more people in the company and has loads of health and stress-relief benefits, so I like to think I’m doing some public good!

I chatted to lots of people around the building and found that there was a lot of untapped musical talent, so I felt confident that there would be enough interest to launch the MEC Choir!  I mentioned my idea to Stuart Bowden (Joint CEO) and Clare Alger (Director of People & Culture), and they were very keen for it to happen, so I set about finding people who were interested, a company that could facilitate, and then made the request to the My Perks Committee and the Management Board, who all agreed and it went from there.

Q. What advice would you give for someone who had a similar idea?

A. Go for it!  Finding a company that could provide us with a musical director to lead the sessions was critical, because the success of any choir is really dependent on having someone who knows what they’re doing to lead you. We’re working with a great company, Music in Offices (http://www.musicinoffices.com/) who run offices choirs for lots of organisations and have a roster of young, talented, enthusiastic conductors.

You also need to be persistent.  There was an element of me badgering people to come, just to give it a try.  Lots of people feel quite shy about singing in front of colleagues, but once people have had a go, they really enjoyed it!

Q. Who would be your dream duet partner?

A. There’s so many people that I’d love to sing with.  It’s a really hard question!  I think I’d have to say Freddie Mercury.  Queen is one of my guilty pleasures, and his voice was insanely good – he had something like a four octave range, which is huge, and was an incredible performer and musician.

If you would like to find out any more information about Crouch End Choir please check out www.cefc.org.uk  or if you would like to chat with Susanna please leave any questions in the comments box below.