Choir’s winter concert held in aid of local refugee centre

Songworks Community Choir in session earlier this year.

Songworks Community Choir in session earlier this year. - Credit: Archant

Songworks Community Choir’s winter concert was held at St Mary with St George, Hornsey Parish Church last Wednesday, December 12. Jo Trew was one of those in attendance…

Songworks Community Choir.

Songworks Community Choir. - Credit: Archant

Until it started, you could be forgiven for thinking the Songworks’ Winter Concert was just another local affair, a community choir playing to a proud and forgiving home audience full of Christmas cheer and fairly low expectations. But it was so much more than this.

Songworks Community Choir, directed by Denise Dobson, were raising money for the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Unlike a lot of organisations which maintain an arms-length, rather patrician attitude to the causes they support, Songworks made the Centre and its people a central part of the whole concert, inviting them to join both the audience and the choir.

The evening began in spectacular style when the candle-carrying choir filed into the darkened St Mary with St George’s Parish Church in Hornsey, surrounding the audience and singing a contemplative, spine-tingling De Noche from Taize. This was followed by an eclectic mix of choral works that spanned Ukrainian folk music, anti-apartheid protest songs and Crowded House tunes.

But, by a wide margin, the standout piece of the evening came in the form of Dobson’s brilliant revisioning of Simon and Garfunkel’s Silent Night/ 7 o’clock News. Featuring Adia and Angele from the Islington Centre, the choir sung and hummed the familiar haunting carol while actor Juliet Stevenson, the Centre’s patron, read a powerful piece drawn from news of the migrant crisis. This segued straight into Thina Simunye, a call-and-response song (“We are together/ we are family”) led by Angele. Her soaring voice and raw emotion drove home the fact that, for many people, the migrant crisis isn’t just a horrifying story on the news, but their own lived experience. It was an intense and very moving performance.

Last week's concert shone a light on the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.

Last week's concert shone a light on the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. - Credit: Archant

The concert ended with two more songs of a less emotionally-wringing nature, and a rather shambolic but very lovely singalong where the entire audience was invited up to join the choir.

It was an incredibly charged and meaningful night that will linger in the minds of audience and choir alike for a long time to come.

For more information on the choir, visit their website here.