Showing posts with label choral singing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label choral singing. Show all posts

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A very big noise: ONE DAY ONE CHOIR

'One Day One Choir' sounds singular. But hang on a mo: no fewer than 55 countries are now taking part in this gigantic day of celebration to bring peace (both inner and interpersonal) to us all through singing together. 

One Day One Choir has snowballed in the past three years: next month it will enjoy its biggest event yet, including the participation of 30 cathedrals. Its website describes it as "an inspiring global peace initiative which uses the harmonious power of singing together to unite people around the world on Peace Day, September 21st". It's still building, though, with a special eye on 2018, the final year of the World War I commemorations, so there could be no better time to step up, get involved and add your voices to the worldwide mix.

I asked its instigator and organiser, Jane Hanson, how and why she started on the project and where it goes from here.

JD: What’s the idea behind One Day One Choir? Why this, why now?

Jane Hanson
JH: ODOC arrived as a vision over a period of weeks in 2013. It was always clear that it would be about inspiring/motivating people to sing together for peace and using the amazing powers and qualities of singing to connect and unite people. 

I had been troubled about the unrest in Syria for some time, riots had been taking place in the UK and I was constantly being asked by children what was going to happen and how could they stop being scared. I kept thinking about what was happening and asking myself what could I do to make a small contribution for the better. 

I’d sung in choirs almost all my life (as had my parents and grandparents) and I’d also done research and radio work for the BBC on the power of music and singing together - so I knew this was something that anyone, anywhere in the world could do. I had seen the special and powerful effect singing together had achieved in many communities around the world.  Singing unites and uplifts people more quickly and effectively than almost any other human activity, and I knew it could make a difference by bringing people together and helping them to focus on thoughts and ideas around peace and unity. I’d also run the London Philharmonic Choir, so had connections and had helped out on global choral concerts for Voices for Hospices. I thought that by getting people singing together around the world, I could create something that offered an opportunity to anyone, anywhere, to have a small voice for peace and to feel connected to others with the same aim.

Vladimir Jurowski adds his support
Vladimir Jurowski was part of the vision. I went to him and asked for support, which he gave by bringing the LPO on board and adding his name as an ambassador for the project. Then I had to try and find funding and support for a launch concert. While all these ideas were running around in my head, the government announced that a chunk of money was becoming available to fund projects linked to the World War I commemoration, 14-18, so I thought perhaps I could run a project during these years and get people to unite in their communities and sing together for peace. Unfortunately, despite best attempts and a personal letter to me from the PM saying that ODOC was a very exciting idea, no money from this vast fund was to be forthcoming as it was only for projects linked to and directly commemoration WW1 events, and definitely not for peace projects... 

I almost gave up many times - but something always happened to keep me going. Everyone I spoke with thought the project was a brilliant idea and insisted I carry on. Three months before Peace Day 2014 I had lots of support, but still no funding, when - out of the blue - Radio 3’s The Choir stepped up and offered us a launch concert in the piazza outside Broadcasting House. This, along with media that had built up around the project, kicked us off on 21 September 2014. A conglomerate of choirs comprising The Mixed Up Chorus, London International Gospel Choir, Gospel Oak Community Parents Choir, Cheam Common Infant School Choir and The London Philharmonic Choir sang separately and together in an event broadcast live on Radio 3 and - with the help of various groups and supporters - 100,000 other people around the world also signed up to sing for peace.

JD: What does it take to organise events as big as this? How do you get people involved and spread the word.

JH: Faith, effort, determination, time and commitment - plus the support of friends and others who feel strongly about doing something for unity, community and peace and who love singing. I still do all this for free in my ‘ spare' time, so we don’t have the outreach and impact we would have if we had funding, wider support and back up and staff. But we’re still not doing too badly: lots of people know about us now. I do what I can do in the time I have and try and reach out to other groups who are interested in the same things and who try to help us by spreading the word and by finding some media support as well. 

First one school in Argentina joined in;
this year, six or seven participate
Most of our outreach goes through the website, Facebook and people who have already sung with us and share our values. One man has driven around the UK visiting cathedrals and peace centres and asking them to come on board, a music student in Kansas brought eight choirs on board last year and there are more stories of people taking up the ‘baton' and helping the project to run.

We are also now getting support from Sing UP, Music Mark and Making Music and an increasing number of people love the project and help out by reaching out and spreading the word to others - though obviously we would love LOTS more.

JD: Do you think music can bring peace? If so, how?

JH: By itself, of course, not directly, although singing can be a very peaceful and positive and uniting activity. We are looking at peace of all kinds in this project. We’re not just about non-violence but - perhaps more importantly - about inner peace, and thinking about ways to build and maintain peaceful existence with each other in families, schools, work place, communities, etc. Certainly when people sing together a very powerful bonding takes place. 

The Sixteen's recent Poulenc CD
with a dove, symbol of peace
Singing has been shown scientifically and psychologically to connect and unite people more than any other activity - some people even go as far as to say that that is its purpose. Vladimir Jurowski, for example, definitely believes that singing together has a special sociological power or purpose and helps people and communities to connect and keep linked in a positive way. Then there is the view of Bernstein: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

It is also a good teaching tool, especially in schools that work with the project to introduce notions and lessons/thoughts on what peace is and how to help achieve it personally and at school, as well as singing which is the fun and widely connecting part for children. For some schools where singing has taken a back seat of late, it provides a great opportunity to get the whole school singing by coming to it from a different direction. And teachers want ways to communicate with children about global issues, dealing with conflict and talking about peace. More and more schools are signing up, all over the world - already including more than 500 in Pakistan.

JD: Where would you like the project to go from here?

JH: I’d love some big organisation or media group to offer help to take this to more and more people and to help us create a big concert next year that can be screened or streamed to a huge audience around the world. I feel more like the guardian of the project than the owner; it needs help and support now from or wider community groups and leaders.

I would like as many people as possible around the world to engage with the project and sing for unity and peace with us - especially children and schools - and I’d like people to do this more spontaneously themselves in the future. To sing in a pro-active way in their communities without having to be on a social media video, for example, and to reach out to others to bring them together. If there were an annual peace singing event, I’m sure people would love it.

I also want people to take the thoughts and ideas we share about unity and peace (and singing) into their everyday lives, using them however they can to help themselves and their communities - and to be empowered and to have fun with it. 

Two singers from the National Opera Studio added their voices to those of students from Burntwood School in this Peace Assembly in London last year

JD: What would you say to encourage people to take part?

JH: Most people love singing and I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t want to live in a more peaceful or united world. So I would simply ask them to think about this and then get together with a few (or lots of) other people and add their voices to the others singing out.  

It’s not necessary to put on a concert, although people do. You can sing one song to be part of it - anything appropriate for peace (we have some free songs on the website) or you can dedicate something you are already doing, e.g. evensong or chants in temples and mosques or even a pre-planned rehearsal or concert. The Sixteen have just dedicated their concert on 21 September and will be mentioning us before they sing, and the monks at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight and at Wat Buddhapadipa Thai Temple will be dedicating their chanting to ODOC and inviting the public to join in. The Wat is organising a special chant event for ODOC this year.

And this is a great and easy project for schools to join, as the whole school can sing in assembly. We provide free songs and support - and children and teachers who’ve already joined us love it.  Increasing numbers of schools now connect with others, or invite parents in to join them

If that’s not inspiring enough, then singing itself is super-good for us in so many ways - it has multiple health benefits including the fact that singing regularly in a choir improves your entire immune system. It literally helps to make us feel uplifted and happy because of the chemicals it stimulates in our brains and it’s a great social activity. Singing connects us to others better than anything else and when we sing together our hearts literally start to beat at the same time. (Our supporter Mark Elder loves that fact)

JD: What do you personally feel about it? What would you say to inspire others?

Karl Jenkins adds his call for participants
JH: At the moment a lot of long days and sleepless nights!  But I know it’s worth it, too, because every time a group signs up or sends a positive message or feedback, there’s a calm inner feeling that you know this is a right thing to be doing and that some people, somewhere, are feeling inspired or supported by it. That’s especially true when it’s children and schools, or people who wouldn’t be singing together with others in any other way. And it feels great every time we get a sign-up from a new country or a well-known group or choir.

What drives me? Well, when you start something, then you have to finish it, as they say, especially when you’ve set very clear and public timelines and intentions! And there's a strong inner knowledge and guiding force that things have to be done to help people find ways to unite with a common voice, as our world seems to have become even more troubled than when the project started. Singing or chanting together is one of the only ways that they can do that - so the aim is to provide a common platform where people can sing their own tunes in their own words and languages, but still create a common harmony and be united with others. 

I don’t even think I have a choice to do this, really. I think it was there in the ether just waiting or wanting to happen and I happened to be the person that had to do it. And anyway, my friends and supporters wouldn’t let me stop now even if I tried - especially as there’s only just over a year to go to our 2018 target!

If you have a vision, a passion, a strong belief or a gut feeling that you can or could do something that matters, to you or other people, then believe in it and keep going, however hard it seems to be! Reach out for all the support you can get. You’ll be amazed how many strangers can step up to help - and keep going.  And don’t attach too much to a specific outcome because, as we have seen with ODOC, it might not go quite the way you pictured, but if the idea is good it will go the way it’s meant to go. Go with the flow. And keep going.