Hats off to Hackney Summer Choral Course team!

The 2020 Hackney Summer Choral Course has come to a triumphant end! COVID-19 meant that finding participants and venues was particularly challenging this year but the team, led by St Paul’s Cathedral’s Tom Daggett, was determined the show would go on.

45 children from Hackney and as far afield as Liverpool, Spain and Canada joined in for the action-packed event from 27-30 July. So what did they get up to?

Each morning music sessions via Zoom and Facebook Live taught works by a variety of composers from Byrd to Errollyn Warren. There were pre-recorded masterclasses and live Q & As with classical artists including opera star Abigail Kelly (pictured), BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, Charlotte Barbour-Condini on the recorder, singer Valerie Ettienne with percussionist David Gallagher and cellist Kwesi Edman.

Abigail Kelly

The Summer School, now in its third year, is part of Hackney Choral, led by St Paul’s Cathedral in partnership with St Paul’s West Hackney Church and funded by The Mayor of London.

Afternoon activities included discovery packs exploring opera and tone poems as well as in-person games in the Rectory Garden (socially-distancing, of course!). Many arrived saying they had been ‘bored, lethargic and unhappy’. They were tired but were looking forward to the Course as ‘something to brighten my day’.

One activity captured their imaginations in particular. This was writing and recording a new piece of music which gave them the chance to reflect on lockdown. Here’s how they felt about Livin’ in a Lockdown World.

The Course concluded with a live jazz band from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama & the Vicars Choral of St Paul’s Cathedral making their first singing appearance since March! Participants and organisers alike left feeling happy, tired, exhilarated, challenged and’ cheery’! One child added: “This was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it out of lockdown.”