Sing Together! at the Royal Academy

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Earlier this month, Year 4 pupils from Tower Hamlets joined students from the Royal Academy of Music, our Trainee Music Leaders, teachers, assistants and other members of staff for a collaborative vocal performance led by the Academy’s professor of jazz composition and renowned educator, Pete Churchill. The concert celebrated the continued long-term relationship between Spitalfields Music and the Royal Academy, and presented a great opportunity for Year 4s from Stewart Headlam Primary School and Swanlea Secondary School to perform in a semi-professional context.

Before the performance, Julian West shared his thoughts on Sing Together!

I have been impressed by the way the children have responded to Pete’s energy and enthusiasm – internalising the rhythm, connecting with the text, and learning the melodies, and making them their own.

In selecting the repertoire, Pete has chosen “songs that were written to bring people together – to celebrate community in every sense of the word.”  We think that what you will experience is people really singing, generating the energy and sound themselves, rather than “singing along”.’

See what Pete had to say about the project below:

Singing is the cheapest thing to do in music. It is the great leveler and, with no instrument to hide behind, it is the most direct way into music. I feel that it is only by singing and moving together that we can absorb music at its purest level. Any instrument we then choose to play becomes a way for us to release what already lies inside us.

For instrumentalists, singing is the best pathway to expressive playing, the surest way to express line and phrasing and the best barometer of what we truly hear. We neglect it at our peril. If we do not nurture singing in our schools – in ALL our schools – then we will be bypassing this crucial stage in our musical development and we will be losing something extremely important.

This was the culmination of a remarkable project. The level of commitment from all the singers involved has been amazing throughout the rehearsal period and it has been wonderful to hear the choirs grow in confidence as the weeks went by.

These songs were chosen to express important issues of community, tolerance and respect – fundamental issues for our society today. But I think it is the actions of these singers that speak more eloquently than any words I could give them. By choosing to come together and sing – especially to come HERE and sing, they have sent us a strong message about what is most valuable in our community, about what we can hope for and what we all can be.’

Pete Churchill

The programme explored songs which were written to bring communities together through music-making. To express this sentiment, Pete wrote a song called Home is where you find your neighbour, which the group performed in both English and Swahili.

Home is where you find your neighbour/O Jirani (Pete Churchill/Joyce Omuse)

Home is where you find your neighbour
Where the heart has always longed to be.
Home is where you feel you’re part of a community.
Home is where you find your freedom
Where we stand together – you and me.
Take your neighbour by the hand and you will both be free!
For the longer you labour
And the farther you roam –
There’s a freedom that’s waiting to greet you –
Sweet as the honeycomb…
If you want a taste of freedom…
Welcome home!

O jirani yako mpendwa –
Nyumbani anakungoja.
O pahali moyo wakoungependa kuwa.
O uhuru wako mzima –
Nyumbani utaupata.
O uhuru ni jirani wanapoungana.
Baada ya safari…
Baada ya kazi…
Uhuru unakungojea tamu kama asali.
Ukitaka uhuru…
Karibu nyumbani!

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