Brighton ‘scratch choir’ to sing in aid of three charities

Kirsty Martin, a Brighton-based musician, composer and teacher will be conducting Singing for Sanctuary
Kirsty Martin, a Brighton-based musician, composer and teacher will be conducting Singing for Sanctuary

Early last year Carole Manley couldn’t find a spare tent. She was rooting around in her cupboard, looking for something to donate to those stranded in Calais, when she found she had nothing to give. It was then she struck upon a very different idea.

Carole has organised Singing for Sanctuary – a ‘scratch choir’ event to raise money for three local charities. A scratch choir means simply inviting people to sing together, with little rehearsal and no bars to entry.

“I love singing, it was all I ever wanted to do,” said Carole. “I have never been one for putting pennies in tins I have always done larger charity fundraisers, whether sponsored walks, or a charity bike ride though America. And I was long overdue to do something.”

Carole was also inspired by a conversation with folk singer Peggy Seeger, who couldn’t understand why she was working behind a desk if her heart lay with singing.

At 7.30pm on January 28, Carole will see if her idea has paid off. If devoting all her time when not in her office manager job at a telecommunications company and investing her own savings, will have been worth it.

On a day when many will be feel the post-Christmas blues and the weather will be cold out, Carole hopes that hundreds of people from across Brighton and beyond will come together, many of them for the first time, to sing as her ‘scratch choir’.

The event will raise money for Brighton Voices in Exile, a charity supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Sussex and Surrey, Miss Represented, an arts project for vulnerable young women, and Rise UK, which helps people find freedom from abuse and violence.

Carole was inspired to organise her own event after seeing the Scratch Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall last November.

Like Carole’s own taste in music, however, the score for Singing for Sanctuary will be more eclectic.

Kirsty Martin, a Brighton-based musician, composer and teacher will be conducting on the night.

She said: “We’ve chosen eight songs that point to the poignant message of singing for sanctuary from different generic backgrounds, including Afro-Brazilian, jazz, gospel, a poem from Maya Angelou, Praise You by Fatboy Slim and a more contemporary piece by Sianed Jones.”

Kirsty is part of the Natural Voices Practitioners’ Network, an organisation set up by musician Frankie Armstrong in London that believes singing is everyone’s birthright, regardless of musical experience or ability, so an event that allows anyone to turn up and sing together made sense to her.

So, do you need to be a good singer to take part?

“Absolutely not. Yes, there are naturally able singers, but if you can talk you can sing,” said Kirsty.

“People think they’ll get singing lessons first then join a choir. This is the wrong way round. Join a choir first, feel the buzz of it then improve.”

Kirsty’s choir Hullabaloo will be one of several choirs participating in the event, but participants don’t have to be in a choir to join.

When singers buy a ticket online they can choose to learn the music via audio files or using sheet music, then turn up at a rehearsal held on the same day as the performance.

It was the possibility of learning the music online that meant Brighton-based chimney sweep, Christina Goff, 55, could sing with her mother Sheila Goff who lives in London.

Christina said: “I joined Hullabaloo last year, and have been singing in the choir less than a year.

“My mum, who will be 81 in January, has sung in choirs for years including big mass sings at the Albert Hall. This is something we’re going to do together.

“I liked the big of a big mass sing but it will also be a really nice thing to do together, around my mother’s birthday.”

Sheila Goff, a writer, had sung as part of the Scratch Messiah previously but said she finds this community scratch choir more friendly, and she will enjoy the energy of singing in a group on the day.

Organising the event has not been straightforward, and Carole made the difficult decision to move Singing for Sanctuary from the Dome to St Bartholomew’s Church after failing to amass the 1,000 singers she had hoped for.

“I’m feeling very happy with our new venue, excited to hear the songs sung en masse, a little disappointed we didn’t get more singers as it would make so much difference to the fundraising, but St Bartholomew’s can hold a lot more and there is still time. But inevitably I’m very tired,” said Carole.

She hopes to join in on the day, but may be still making the finishing touches or selling tickets on the door.

Carole started off wanting to donate a tent to those living in Calais.

In a year, she will have set up a new organisation Brighton Sings, run her first event Singing for Sanctuary and raised money for three charities with links to Brighton.

Tickets are available as a singer or as an audience member from brightonsings.co.uk