An interview with Mark De-Lisser.
Mark De-Lisser is our Singing Curator here at Biiah. Mark is also the co-host for our weekly Live Instagram TV (IGTV) show ‘The Everyone Can Sing Club’.
Q: Tell us a bit about you
I love playing music, watching people dance, creating arrangements and watching people enjoy singing. The best thing in the world is that desire you get when you’re with a group of people: that desire to chat, to eat, to laugh and most importantly for me – to sing.
Music is an important part of my household. I spend a lot of time with my kids – I constantly bombard them with: “oh, listen to this song! Did you hear that, did you hear that part? What happened to the cello in that bit?” That’s how I spend my life: music, family and people.
Q: What part of your work with Biiah do you enjoy most?
I have a lot of fun making music for the app and finding music that is diverse, fun and engaging but at the same time challenging. I wanted to bring the real life experience of teaching singers in a room into a virtual experience.
Q: Why were you drawn to this project?
I was sold as soon as Biiah was introduced to me. I have a desire to ensure that everyone in the world should have the opportunity to sing – the app (Biiah) makes that journey of just jumping straight in to the singing experience so much easier, giving people access to singing on their mobile phone, wherever they are in the world. What we want to do is open the door to an easy, fun way to explore your voice and give singing a go.
Q: What does music mean to you?
“Music is life”
When you’re conceived in the womb there is a heart beat and already we have rhythm. This beating gets faster or slower depending on your mood. For me, that is the basis to music. Most of us in this world would have cried when we came out of the womb, right? Nobody teaches you that.
You have to learn how to hold a spoon and to put it in your mouth, you have to learn how to pick up something but nobody teaches you how to cry. That sound you make when you enter the world is the basis for everything, it’s your unique sound.
A beautiful experience that I can share is when my daughter wanted to have a singing lesson and my two sons just couldn’t ignore the music, they had to be involved. One joined in on piano and the other on drums.
“Music draws people in and that’s what’s so powerful about it”
Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
My dad. When I was about 7 or 8, I went off to a rehearsal with him, complaining the whole way. But as soon as I got there and I saw all of these men singing together, I was inspired.
Watching my dad singing was the root of it all because he took it so seriously: he had his music under his arm, and you could hear him humming the songs through. I was enraptured. That was a pivotal moment and I have been inspired by him ever since.
It was also very cool watching the leader of the choir, getting all of these guys to sing. I had never seen anything like it. My dad brought me into the musical world and the leader of that choir feeds into who I am as my own choir leader.
Q: What led you to become a vocal coach and choral director?
When I was growing up, all I wanted was to get people singing the harmonies in my head. I became a bit of a vocal nerd in my late teens when I learned what the voice does, how we create sound and where harmony comes from.
I then started forming various singing groups and leading choirs in my church. Due to my heritage I never thought I could live a life where I teach people how to sing, I thought I’d have to be an accountant, doctor or lawyer. But how could I do anything else when the feeling is so good from teaching people how to sing?
Q: Tell us a bit more about the work you do for Singology?
I finished training as a vocal coach and from that I was eager to get people singing. I started with 1:1 sessions, honing my skills as I led people on this journey of vocal discovery.
I started Singology in 2003 as an opportunity for people to come together and sing. I had a desire to help churches to change the negative perceptions of who was allowed into the Church choirs.
Singology was born out of that desire that everybody is welcome, regardless of age, gender, race, or whether you think you can sing, whatever you’ve done wherever you’ve been, just come along and sing.
Q: How do you get people to start singing?
For new singers you can start by giving them the license to sing whatever comes out of their mouth. In my workshops, I ask everyone to create sounds as they’re walking around the room, it can be any sound, just create some noise! And that’s it, the journey of exploring your voice has begun.
Q: What has been your favourite song to work on for the Biiah app and why?
I Vow to Thee My Country because there’s something about it that stirs me. I enjoyed every second of arranging this song for Biiah.
Q: If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Total Praise by Richard Smallwood. It’s a gospel hymn-style song. I remember hearing it for the first time in 1991 and thought it was beautiful. It’s short but incredibly powerful. I could absolutely listen to that all day long.
Mark was talking to Ione Haynes, former Marketing Coordinator at Biiah.