London’s community choirs are finally returning to in-person rehearsals and even the odd gig. If you’re looking to get involved in the joy of communal singing, here are some of the friendliest, both trad and modern. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any we’ve missed.
Morris Folk Choir
Dalston, every Tuesday
Morris perform unique arrangements of sea shanties, murder ballads, protest songs, contemporary folk tunes and work songs.
They’ve been rehearsing on Zoom during lockdown but are finally back in their regular rehearsal space in Dalston and will be singing sea songs on 7 October at the Mall Galleries, SW1. Previous gigs have included Cecil Sharp House, the South Bank Centre, various church halls, parks and a barge on the Thames.
Singers aren’t auditioned. Choir members pick a new theme once or twice a year, choose songs to fit the theme, then learn them by ear and memorise lyrics for performance. The current theme is songs about singing; previous ones include migration, birds, trees, drinking, the sea and love. Subs are £30 a term.
On the last Tuesday of the month, rehearsals are replaced with a folk club open to all – currently on Zoom but usually at the Vortex Downstairs in Dalston. “New members of all standards and experience can expect a very warm welcome,” says the choir leader, Michelle Woolfenden. Details: morrisfolkchoir.org
Dulwich Folk Choir
Dulwich, alternate Tuesdays
Led by Aimée Leonard, a voice trainer and singing tutor, Dulwich Folk Choir perform songs from around the world, many from Aimée’s native Orkney.
They have sung at venues across London including the Cutty Sark and the Maritime Museum, as well as The Goose is Out!, where several members are regulars at the singaround. Singers aren’t auditioned.
London Sea Shanty Collective
Dalston, every Thursday
A “glorious bunch of striped sea songsters”, as the British Library described them, the London Sea Shanty Collective sing maritime songs old and new, many of them written and all of them arranged by choir members – including material in French, Swedish, Breton, Welsh and Cornish.
They’ve just restarted in-person rehearsals in Dalston and performed at Cody Dock and the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe in September.
Past gigs include the British Library, British Museum and Mycenae House, plus festivals from Harwich to Hull to County Cork. Just before lockdown they had a storming success with The Earl de Grey: A Hull Folk Opera (featured in FL305), an all-original show written by Chris Wilson and other choir members.
London Music Hall Choir
Whitechapel, every Monday
Anyone who’s seen the London Music Hall Choir perform knows the truth to their boast of “some of the best Victoriana costumes in the business”, with a spectacular array of hats and waistcoats.
They also seem to have as much fun performing as their audiences do watching, and have sung at venues including the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, the Harrison and St Botolph’s church.
Led by Ed Hicks of the Trad Academy, the choir learn original arrangements of music hall songs by ear. They’re back rehearsing in Whitechapel after keeping going through lockdown with weekly “digital ding dongs” on Zoom.
King’s Cross, every Monday
The Nest Collective’s Fire Choir are “dedicated to communal singing with political empowerment”, singing songs of freedom and social justice and highlighting the urgent need for climate action.
They were founded by Sam Lee and choir leaders Blythe Pepino, Alex Etchart and Ben See as “a vehicle to take rabble-rousing, soul-lifting chants and hollers to the streets, the auditoria, the recording studio and beyond”.
Their autumn term began on 20 September, costing £96 or £48 NUS/unemployed/low-income. Rehearsals are in King’s Cross.
Finsbury Park, every Tuesday; Rotherhithe, every Thursday
The not-for-profit organisation Starling Arts, which “advocates group singing for wellbeing”, runs two community choirs.
The north and south London choirs have different repertoires in similar genres – original arrangements of “rock anthems”, “epic pop” and Broadway showtunes – but sing together at performances.
There are no auditions; the Rotherhithe choir is welcoming new members but Finsbury Park has a waiting list. Fees are £110 a term (£10 a session).
West End Musical Choir
Mile End, every Monday; Fulham, every Wednesday; Wimbledon, every Thursday
This non-audition choir is probably Britain’s biggest, with three branches in London and one in Manchester plus virtual rehearsals boasting 1,000 members between them.
They sing West End and Broadway hits at venues including Hampton Court Palace and the V&A Museum, with TV appearances including ITV’s This Morning.
The autumn term has just started; term fees are £120 (in-person) or £60 (virtual). Details: westendmusicalchoir.com
This article appeared in Folk London 315, October-November 2021
Letter: Alison Frosdick
I’d like to let Folk London readers know about my choir, the Clapton Commons Community Choir. We formed in September 2021 and are a non-auditioning choir who meet on a Wednesday evening from 6.45-8.30pm at St Thomas’ church, 1 Clapton Terrace, Clapton Common E5 9BW.
Our repertoire is wide and diverse but as we are using a church space to rehearse we are expected to make a contribution to the Christmas carol service and there will be other opportunities to perform as the choir builds in confidence. The fees per 11-week term are £25 waged and £10 unwaged.
I am a graduate of the Natural Voice Movement and firmly believe that if you have a voice … you can sing! Choir members are not expected to be able to read music as I teach by ear, but I do provide scores as I have found that people like to follow the structure of a piece of music.
All the songs are supported with learning tracks available on a digital shared folder for practice outside the rehearsals.
Each session includes a vocal warmup and some vocal technique but the main emphasis is on having fun, meeting new people and developing a sense of wellbeing from singing in a group.
We are new and trying to build numbers. Anyone interested in joining can contact me on 07779 348 346.