I had my first encounter with The Choir with No Name at the historic Brighton Dome in December 2021. The softly illuminated auditorium set the scene for the ‘Big Christmas Sing-Along’ and the 1,700 velvet-seated theatre buzzed with eager attendees.
Growing up, my perception of choirs was heavily influenced by the movie ‘Sister Act,’ where the incredible Whoopi Goldberg transforms a convent choir into a soulful ensemble with a Motown repertoire. However, my own choir experiences were far from glamorous, often involving shivering in cold C of E churches on creaky pews while singing from dusty hymnals. There were exceptions, like the joyous visits of my school choir to homes for the elderly at Christmas, where we sang festive carols and were fed free chocolates—memories I hold dear.
The Choir with No Name is the Brighton arm of a UK-based charity dedicated to creating supportive and inclusive singing communities for people who have experienced homelessness and social marginalisation.
Under the dynamic guidance of vibrant Choir Director Freya, the stage came alive with a spirited ensemble of singers of all ages and backgrounds, sporting festive hats, glitter, tinsel, and matching t-shirts. Their enormous smiles filled the auditorium as they sang Christmas carols and popular hits with heartfelt passion. The performance included courageous solo acts from untrained singers, guest appearances, and inspirational stories along the way.
The ‘audience participation’ aspect, which had filled me with apprehension, quickly transformed into an overwhelming desire to stand up and join in. I waved my song sheet enthusiastically as the entire auditorium resonated with the choir’s infectious positivity, weaving a symphony of resilience and hope.
My next encounter with the Choir took place at St. Luke’s Church in Prestonville, a well-known community hub for Brighton’s charitable organisations. It was during a crowdfunding event for ‘Making It Out,’ a project aimed at raising funds for a public sculpture commemorating those who lost their lives while experiencing homelessness. The choir’s performance felt like a celebration of the transformative power of music, but it also carried the weight of a sombre tribute.
Ess, a choir member who had played a significant role in supporting the project, shared a deeply moving story of a friend she had lost to homelessness during her youth. Her heartfelt narrative set the stage for the choir’s performances, which included a stunning and tear-jerking rendition of Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ and an uplifting take on Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’ These performances, punctuated by soulful solos, served as a poignant reminder that even in the face of life’s challenges, hope shines through.
Members consistently describe their group as ‘family.’ Despite the diverse life experiences and unique journeys that each member brings, they came together to cherish one another’s company, seek solace and immerse themselves in a community that embraces every individual without judgement.
The Choir With No Name extends its impact far beyond the realm of singing, hosting weekly rehearsals accompanied by nourishing meals and organising community singing workshops specifically for those facing the threat of homelessness.
One individual who attended a session we conducted with Voices in Exile said “I wish we could do this more often! I believe this is a perfect way to enjoy ourselves and improve my English skills.”
Music, in this context, acts as a potent catalyst for enhancing the well-being of its members who report elevated feelings of belonging, self-worth, joy, and resilience.
In my frequent interactions with choir members during various events, I’ve come to realise that they are all deeply dedicated to advocacy efforts aimed at raising awareness about homelessness and related social issues. Their courage in confronting adversity and taking the stage, often without any formal training, serves as an inspiration for me to confront my own fears.
Tickets are now on sale for this year’s Christmas sing-along at the Dome. Expect Christmas classics, plus guest appearances from soul sensation Alice Russell and the Hullabaloo Quire.
We are proud supporters of all the groups mentioned, and you can find links to their projects here.