Hackney Singers community choir celebrates 40th anniversary

The Hackney Singers perform for the BBC Sing Hallelujah event at the London Colliseum

The Hackney Singers perform for the BBC Sing Hallelujah event at the London Colliseum - Credit: BBC / Andrew Downs

A choir which began its life as a singing evening class is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, with a rendition of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.

Starting life as the Hackney Institute Adult Education Programme in 1973, it was renamed the Hackney Singers in 1979 when it was decided that a punchier name was needed.

Now the choir draws almost 200 members and was chosen to represent the borough at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.

Its ethos is that anyone can learn and perform music well.

Choir member Alice Mead said: “Although there are quite a lot of non-auditioning choirs, what I think is quite unusual about Hackney Singers is the ambitious repertoire the music team selects for us.

“There’s no dumbing down, and the assumption is that anyone can get to grips with good music.”

The choir has been rehearsing on Thursday nights in St Luke’s Church, just off Morning Lane since the mid-1990s.

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Recent highlights for the choir include working on the BBC’s Sing Halleluiah! project, which culminated with performance at the London Coliseum, working with a Hackney-based film production company on the soundtrack for a feature film and singing with singing with the Botswanan Sedibeng Choral Society which provided the soundtrack to the hit TV series the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

The choir’s free annual Christmas concert raises money for the Hackney Night Shelter through donations.

The 40th anniversary Victorian music evening celebration takes place in St Mary’s Church in Stoke Newington Church Street on Saturday October 5 at 7.30pm.

Composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was so popular in the 1920s and 1930s that a fortnight’s-worth of performances were staged at the Royal Albert Hall each year to large and enthusiastic audiences, who often turned up dressed in native-American costume.

Tickets priced at £12 or £10 concessions are available at www.hackneysingers.org.uk.

The choir is appealing to any former members to email chair@hackneysingers.org.uk with their early Hackney Singers memories.