Photos: Mike Johnston, Joe Bloom, Rachel Cherry
Project: Singing Our Lives
Creative Producer: Holly Jones
Musical Director: Jeremy Haneman
SINGING OUR LIVES is a ground-breaking project bringing refugee, migrant and local communities together with professional musicians to compose new music and perform together.
Conceived and developed by Together Productions, the project has attracted partners including the Royal Opera House, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the International Organization for Migration, amongst many others. The project celebrates diversity and solidarity through choral music, and has pioneered a unique collaborative dialogue and composition process that results in powerful new works reflecting the culture and experiences of hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds across the UK.
SINGING OUR LIVES has produced sell out performances in venues including Milton Court, the Royal Festival Hall and Tilbury Terminal, reaching thousands of audience members and participants from diverse backgrounds, using choral singing as a means to bring together people who would never otherwise meet to write and perform music they would never normally encounter. The project has engaged communities from across London and the South East of England in some of the most socio-economically deprived UK boroughs and regions.
"How humbling, soulful and inspirational it's been to collaborate with people from around the world who've endured unspeakable heartbreak, pain and suffering. Through Singing Our Lives, I've met such courageous people."
- Debbie, Mixed Up Chorus SOL participant 2018/19
"Being part of Singing Our Lives was very special…I remember thinking "we can't do opera", but we did it! To be part of the experience helped give us confidence. I felt part of the whole, though we're not all the same, we are the same. We have the same vulnerabilities."
- Joy, Mind & Soul Choir SOL participant 2018/19
"The whole Singing Our Lives project has been an amazing journey for me and it has been fantastic to be involved in something so positive and full of hope. I loved meeting and working with so many different people, different cultures, different religions … Performing classical music on stage last year was for me such an empowering experience!"
- Rody, Sing for Freedom Refugee Choir SOL participant 2018
NEWFLASH: We're thrilled to announce we've been awarded grants of £50,000 from the Arts Council England and £10,000 from National Lottery Awards for All, for the third year of Singing Our Lives to help us develop and grow the programme and reach further audiences around the UK.
The World Premiere of Lamma Bada - composed by the Singing Our Lives company in 2019 with composer Mike Roberts and librettist Tess Berry-Hart. Performed by the Singing Our Lives company at Union Chapel
Listen to our new songs here
Singing Our Lives on the radio
Singing Our Lives featured on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight.
Singing Our Lives featured on BBC Radio London, listen here
Singing Our Lives celebrates diversity and solidarity through choral music and collaboration and enables positive cultural exchange between resident and migrant/refugee communities. Further plans for 2020 include workshops, performances (social distancing permitting) and the development of our exciting new community opera! Stay in touch to find out more!
Read more about the project here...
"That was such a powerful and moving experience, I'll remember it for a long, long time. Everything about it resonated with me – the collaboration, the 'real' people not professionals, singing their hearts out full of character….and musically very strong "- Audience member, Singing Our Lives gala concert, Milton Court July 2018
2016/17: Singing Our Lives is a unique project which began in September 2016, when the Mixed Up Chorus received an Arts Council England grant to commission composer Mike Roberts (Head of Electronic Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama) and librettist Sarah Grange (Improbable) to create a new song cycle. Partners included Mixed Up Chorus, Sing for Freedom, Rhyl Primary School and the Islington Refugee Centre.
Over several months the groups participated in music and writing workshops, sharing memories, music, stories, life experiences and creating new words and melodies. From the mass of materials created the composer and librettist worked to shape three new songs that captured the essence of the spirit and stories of the project: "Safe Space", "Prayer for Tomorrow" and "Mother's Day" (which has an accompanying animation). The new songs were premiered at a concert at Milton Court Concert Hall at the end of Refugee Week 2017, featuring over 200 performers and sold out to an audience of 600. You can listen to these songs here.
"We are very proud to be involved with Singing Our Lives again this year, a project that holds at its heart the values of inclusion and togetherness." - Alex Beard, Chief Executive, Royal Opera House Covent Garden
2018: Singing Our Lives grows in scope and ambition each year. Hosted in partnership with IOM - the UN Migration Agency, Freedom from Torture, The Royal Opera House, Improbable and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Singing Our Lives 2018 reunited the Mixed Up Chorus, the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus and Freedom from Torture's Sing for Freedom Choir, as well as new special guests including poet and spoken word performer Zena Edwards, the refugee and asylum seeker choir Woven Gold and the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble Stile Antico.
"The whole Singing Our Lives project has been an amazing journey for me and it has been fantastic to be involved in something so positive and full of hope. I loved meeting and working with so many different people, different cultures, different religions … Performing on stage at Milton Court was for me such an empowering experience!" - Rody, member of Sing For Freedom refugee choir
Over six months, the choirs and performers came together in creative workshops and rehearsals to contribute words, melodies and ideas to the new theatrical composition Sembo! (Justice!). Featuring over 200 musicians and singers, the premiere of Sembo! marked the 20th Anniversary of Refugee Week at Milton Court Concert Hall on Sunday 1st July, 2018. The concert explored the experiences of refugees and migrants in the UK and celebrated the rich musical diversity this inspires, combining opera, classical, popular and electronic genres with music from around the globe.
2019: After securing £60K in grants from the Arts Council of England and the National Lottery Awards For All, the third year of Singing Our Lives has seen the project expand in many directions. In 2019 we have built on the collective power of the SOL company, welcoming new performing groups the Mind and Soul Choir and key members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians as well as stage director Freya Wynn-Jones to create powerful immersive performances, engaging the audience with participatory singing too. At the joyous finale of Refugee Week at the Southbank in June 2019, the 500 members of the audience were so moved and engaged they joined the SOL company on stage for the singing finale! We are currently working with students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to develop a digital platform that will further engage thousands around the country with the project and there will be more amazing performances later on in the Autumn, with songwriting and craft workshops taking place later in the year in conjunction with our latest partner, Kinetika.
2020: We did an amazing concert 'Singing Our Lives - Stand Together' on Jan 26th at the Union Chapel in London. In conjunction with Holocaust Memorial Day we had 6 groups and 250 performers on stage to a sell out crowd of over 700 and premiered our latest song "Lamma bada (Love Has No Borders)". Future plans include the launch of our latest new song Nowruz as a virtual choir video and the development of our community opera project!
Partners and Performing Groups:
Funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Awards for All
The Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus is generously supported by Kim Samuel and Thurrock Borough Council.