Award-winning Lewisham community choir launch exciting project: The Hive

Quaggy Community Choir. Pic: Paul Maps.

A Lewisham choir have launched a virtual performance project aimed at bringing together the local community through music, funded by a council grant from Lewisham Local.

Quaggy Community Choir, a non-audition group that prides itself on inclusivity, premiered The Hive on April 30.

The non-selective choir, founded in 2017 by Jake Alexander and Priya Bose prides itself on inclusivity, providing an affordable space for community residents from all walks of life, irrespective of singing experience. Alexander, speaking ahead of the premiere, explained the ethos behind the choir. He said: “We really wanted it to be accessible in all ways.”

The Hive, which premiered on April 30 features an original song, written by Alexander and a fellow choir member who is behind poem, ‘the choir’. The poem, first written for the 2020 Deptford literary festival and subsequently published in Token magazine was heavily inspired by the authors experience being part of Quaggy.

Alexander said: “It was written with one of our singers, who have chosen to remain anonymous, they go by the name Barney Harper and they wrote the poem about us.

 “I thought actually it would be really nice to do something using that.”

The Hive project was fully funded by a grant the choir received from Lewisham Locals’ Lewisham Launchpad, a scheme which aims to provide financial support for community initiatives within the borough.

Alexander said: “We set a number of objectives that we wanted to meet and one of them was on loneliness, mental health and wellbeing”.

The choir supported NHS efforts throughout the pandemic. Pic: Quaggy Community Choir

The choir who have continued to operate online weekly throughout the pandemic received recognition for their work in 2020 from Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham when they were granted an award for their valuable contribution within the borough’s community response to COVID-19 following an anonymous nomination.

While extremely flattered by the award, the choir admit they first felt a little undeserving compared to those working on the front line, however they soon came to appreciate the importance of their supportive role.

Alexander said: “This sort of hour and a half per week acted as a real anchor and something people could look forward to.

“People do need art and music as much as they need those other things to nourish them inside.”

Karen, an active member of the choir commented: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of something that has worked so well within the limitations of online contact. There is a vibrancy and warmth to QCC that makes its work even more important in these times of anxiety and isolation.”

Unlike most community choirs who sing pop songs with a backing track, Quaggy is set apart by its use of acapella, occasionally accompanied by Alexander who studied composition at Trinity College.

Alexander added: “Hive is actually accompanied by me and my electric cello.”

Jake Alexander and his electric cello. PIC: Jake Alexander

He said the Hive project was made by recording singers independently, editing their voices together and then recording the choir singing together on zoom for the visual finish. 

“This gives the performance a sense of intimacy… it helps to simulate the effect of singing together.”

Reflecting on the whole experience Alexander said: “It’s really nice to write a song with one of the choir members about the choir and the process of making the video was really fun.

“We are really excited about finally getting it out there.”

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