Poplar Singers take the stage at the Barbican

On 23rd February, local community choir Poplar Singers performed ‘When We Collide: A British Songbook’ at The Barbican, with choirs from across the country. The Songbook was commissioned by Sky Arts as part of their ‘OpenFest: Art 50’ project, which explored what it means to be British today through art, film, music and performance.

Last summer, lyricist Rebecca Hanbury ran workshops with choirs all over the country, chairing conversations around ‘what it means to be British’. She used the stories to create lyrics to songs, with music composed by Alex Groves.

One song, ’The Kettle’s On', was written using the words from a member of Poplar Singers, as explained in the introduction to the song: ‘[This story] came from a man being offered a dilapidated flat in Poplar after months of homelessness - he was mesmerised by the light streaming in through the windows, and said that “nearly all the good things in his life spread out from that moment”.’

Choirs included the Edinburgh Police Choir, Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir from Northern Ireland, North Coast Harmony from Cornwall, a school choir from Northampton and The Include Choir from Redhill - whose members are with and without speaking or understanding disabilities.

The Songbook was performed in three performances at the Barbican:

  • Two performances in The Foyer, accompanied by Musical Director of Poplar Singers Alex Abbott
  • A ‘Come and Sing’ workshop in the Main Hall, accompanied by the National Youth Orchestra

Hannah Douse, founder of Poplar Singers, said: “It was amazing for our little East London choir to be part of a national choral project and to perform at such a prestigious venue. The Poplar Singers choir has a real sense of community, and it was great to share our love for singing and performing with choirs from all over the country.”

Find out more about The Poplar Singers.

Find out more about When We Collide, and download the songs including The Kettle’s On.

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