Stokey and London Fields set the heart singing

St Michael and All Angels church hall, Lansdowne Drive, London Fields E8 3ER

THE old-fashioned singsong is making a comeback. Just when it seems Londoners are willing to engage with nothing more intimate than a smartphone, people are sharing their musical voices with strangers. Choral singing is a hit in northeast London.

One of the amateur choirs forming is the Boiler House Singers. Set up by musician-composer Tara Creme, the singers meet in a Stoke Newington hall once a week. They are aged between 20 and 70 and up to 20 people pay £4 a session to attend.

Creme told Loving Dalston that about two-thirds of them are women, “which is pretty good for choirs — choirs usually always need more men”.

She explained how the group began. “I started it after going to a meeting at the Boiler House, a community centre in Cazenove Road, and thinking what a nice space it was, and noticing  that it had a piano. I am a composer and enjoy arranging songs for choirs.

“I had run a choir at a Tower Hamlets school where I taught music.” She also used to lead a six-piece a capella group.

She added: “There are many people in the  Boiler House Singers who have not sung since primary school, and who wanted to sing but were unconfident. There are a few who read music or have sung in other choirs but not for a while, and there are no auditions.”

Sessions start with warm-ups and perhaps some rounds (remember Frère Jacques?), then go on to songs being learnt in parts. The evenings often end with “a traditional singsong around the piano”.

The approach of Popchoir, which has just opened in a community hall in Hackney after success elsewhere in London, is that the repertoire is pop music… including the songs of Abba, Snow Patrol and Queen.

Founder Helen Hampton says on the choir’s website: “I’ve been a professional singer all my life and people are always saying ‘How fantastic – wish I could do that’. And they’re right. Singing makes you feel good in so many ways.”

Suffer the little voices to join a choir

Popchoirs rehearse once a week for an hour and a half over three terms a year, with breaks during school holidays. Membership costs £108 a term and the first session is free.

Hampton says: “You are welcome to come and try a rehearsal before signing up for the term.”

There are longer-established choirs in this part of the capital. Children in NE London are also well catered for by choirs, one of which is mentioned in the picture at left.

* The Boiler House Singers, the Boiler House, George Downing Estate N16 6BE. Contact: taracreme@yahoo.co.uk. Popchoir, St Michael and All Angels church hall, Lansdowne Drive E8 3ER, Mondays 8pm-9.30pm

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