7 years of Choir with No Name history!
Seven years ago, on Monday 31st March, 2008, we held our very first rehearsal. What a ride it's been...
- The first choir was founded by Marie Benton (here she is, holding the first ever recruitment flyer we got printed!). Gospel singer and saxophonist Marie was working for homeless charity St Mungo's at the time, but she decided to resign and follow her dream of starting a choir for homeless people.
- Marie remembers: "At the first rehearsal, four choir members turned up, and three volunteers. We sang 'One Love' by Bob Marley. Then we went downstairs and had dinner together and a good chinwag!"
Rachael was volunteering that night. She says, "I absolutely remember what we had for dinner... pasta with tomato and pepper sauce, enriched with a jar of Dolmio. Classic."
"My other memories are pretty sketchy, but I do remember feeling quite nervous but then just having a great time."
And with week 1 under our belt, we carried on singing and eating together every Monday night. Here's a pic of the choir rehearsing in Cubitt Street, King's Cross, a few weeks later...
- More and more people were joining all the time. Choir members described the choir as "the rock in my week," "my family" and "the only homeless service where I don't feel patronised". Friendships were forming, too. (Often, people who are homeless or otherwise on the margins of society are struggling with loneliness and isolation.)
- One of the most amazing memories of the first year is when we, er, got "done" by Channel 4's Secret Millionaire TV programme. That's our millionaire, Daniel Smith, in the beige T-shirt (posing undercover as an unemployed office junior). After he unmasked himself he donated £5K to the choir - which funded us for those crucial early months. Thank you Daniel!!
- In March 2009 we put on a gig to celebrate our first birthday!
A typical response from an audience member: "The enjoyment of the night is clearly not just limited to supporting homeless people as an act of charity. The emotions you feel are incredible – it's euphoric, heartbreaking, laugh-out-loud funny – all the kinds of things you feel when you see brilliant (mainstream) live bands."
- Later in 2009: on the telly for the second time! We got invited onto ITV's This Morning to sing for Philip and Fern:
- In 2010, we had the unforgettable experience of recording our first album, the Album with No Name. As choir member Dean said at the time: "Nothing can express how I felt when I first walked into the recording studio. I was electrified. It was better than winning the lottery, I reckon."
Here we are in the recording studio:
- Oh, and at the same time we made this music video. Deadly serious stuff.
- Christmastime 2010: the choir members were incredibly excited to be invited on tour with indie mega-stars Coldplay for two dates in Newcastle and Liverpool, courtesy of homeless charity Crisis. On top of the exhilarating, confidence-boosting experience of being on stage in front of thousands, what made it really special was bonding on our (somewhat exhausting) cross-country travels by bus, train, and car...!
- And Then There Were Two! In October 2011, we launched Choir with No Name #2 in Birmingham.
- That same Christmas saw the first of what's since become an annual tradition - our big Christmas gig at the beautiful and magical Union Chapel in London. This was also the inaugural gig of our Brum choir, then only 9 weeks old!...
- Our London choir was getting so over-subscribed that we decided to start a new one, in South London, in order to meet the demand...
- Last year, for our 5th birthday, the London and Birmingham choirs jointly recorded an EP, 'High Five'. Here are some of the Brum crew having an ace time in the studio: