A few years ago, Jen had the idea to recreate the joyful Songs of Separation residential experience, on a tiny island, creating a meaningful musical retreat for people who lead community choirs. The idea was that Songs of Separation’s music – powerful, comforting, life-affirming – would reach and uplift many more people if it could be sung in communities. She started to arrange the music and talk to funders back in 2018…
Fast forward to 2020 – the pandemic hit, and suddenly people were separated from one another in a way we’ve not seen before. There were many stories of people connected through choirs, prompting thought about the vital role music, and musical community, can play to keep people afloat in difficult times. Jen considered the work of the people who carry these communities, often responding to much more than musical need, the value of these people in our world and the need to recognise inspirational, heart-centred leadership.
And so, with the help of over 300 Crowdfunder supporters and Creative Scotland, the idea of SoS Music – ALL SING! became a reality. To all who contributed – THANK YOU!
In August 2022, ten choir leaders will embark on an island adventure, to the Isle of Lismore, where they will sing and record four arrangements of songs from the album. This will include creating a suite of learning tools (video and recordings) so that anyone can learn the vocal arrangements. Keep an eye on the website (post August 2022) for these new resources!
“There has been an incredible response to this project – from the public, from singers and from choir leaders across the UK and internationally! It’s been difficult to select just ten leaders from the 400+ nominations received from choir members and the 40+ choir leaders who registered their interest. There were some truly moving stories from choir members, about what their musical community and their choir leader means to them. Stories of huge skill, musicianship, humour and humanity shown by so many MDs. In a very difficult year, singers gained joy and comfort from weekly ‘check-ins’ and zoom singing, co-ordinated by their choir leader. Now it’s time for those people to have a musical adventure – I can’t wait to hear what we’ll create and to see where this takes us!” – Jenny Hill, Producer (SoS Music)
The choir leaders taking part (in alphabetical order) are:
“I am so excited to be able to take part in this amazing project. I feel very privileged to have been chosen from what I know to be a strong group of other choir leaders. I look forward to bringing over 30 years of choir leading and a wide-ranging musical experience to the project. I like its focus on equity, climate change, self-realisation and politics as these all accord with other work I have done in the field of sustainability and the environment. I do believe in the power of music and song to effect personal and societal change and I look forward to using the resulting songs to these ends and helping others to do the same. I also of course very much relish the idea of hanging out and working with some gifted song leaders for a week!!”
“I gladly accept your offer of a place on “All Sing”. After the professional challenges of the last 18 months I’m very much looking forward to a week on the Isle of Lismore with my choir leader peers. It will be a musical treat, a great opportunity to experience more of Scotland’s beauty, and a chance to create a useful resource for community choirs. Roll on August 2022!”
Heg Brignall and Julu Irvine
“We are absolutely delighted to be part of SoS All Sing! We’ve been so inspired by the original SoS album which influenced many of the folk singing projects we run. We are so excited about the opportunity to help create a cappella versions of these wonderful songs in such a sensational location. After over a year of disconnect from our choirs, this will be such a beautiful way to celebrate connection again. Thank you to Jen for putting it all together and for choosing us to be part of it!”
“I am so delighted and excited to accept a place on the Choir leaders Songs of Separation residency on Lismore 2022. When I first heard the SOS album it was playing on loop in our house morning till night. My children loved it and we were all singing the songs around the house. Our local arts festival contacted me when they heard the SOS singers were coming to Dumfries and I arranged parts of the album for my choir to sing and we sang in concert together. I also arranged our own songs of separation for us to sing to the group. It was and remains a highlight for us all. These songs need to be heard and are such great material for choirs to sing. The songs are less about separation and more about building community which is at the heart of what community choirs do.”
“I am so excited and grateful to be offered a place – it’s been an incredibly difficult year for choirs and choir leaders, we’ve all been trying to keep our singers feeling united and motivated, but it’s sometimes hard to keep ourselves motivated and happy! This is going to be a brilliant way for us all to connect with each other and support each other through wonderful music.”
“Thank you so much for offering me a place on this inspiring project, which I accept with gratitude. The theme of separation is so pertinent right now; our separation from each other as human beings and our separation and disconnect from the natural world. I love the depth and breadth of material on the Songs of Separation album and look forward to learning & helping to tweak new choral arrangements of these songs then bringing them home to teach to my choirs. The project feels like a timely creative response to a global process that is calling for change and for re-connection and all that means. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to touch down with nature in a wild and remote Scottish landscape whilst working and playing in collaboration with other creatives. I know how profoundly this will refresh and feed my creativity and, subsequently, feed the singers who I work with.”
“I’m thrilled to be offered a place in this exciting project and would be absolutely delighted to accept. It’s been a difficult few years and the thought of having this to look forward to has really put a spring in my step. It means so much to me that the hard work of myself and other choir leaders is being acknowledged. I often work alone so I am extra grateful to have this opportunity to meet people like myself. I’m so looking forward to meeting the other choir leaders and being inspired by new ideas and excellent chat! Thank you so much to everyone who nominated me and worked so hard to make this happen. I can’t wait for next summer!”
“This is such an amazing project and opportunity to meet and work with a great group of creative, musical and community minded people and Lismore is the perfect place for it. I am just absolutely delighted, excited and so grateful to have been offered a place and look forward to bringing with me the joy and fun of my years working with our fantastic Oban Gaelic Choir. Thanks so much to Jen and Songs of Separation for masterminding and organising a project which will not only inspire us as choral leaders but also the many choristers to whom we’ll pass on our experiences, songs and arrangements from the week”.
“I’m delighted and honoured to be accepted onto the Sos Music – All Sing residential. It’s very exciting to be one of ten choir leaders selected for this. I’m looking forward to working and connecting with the other leaders, sharing our skills and learning from each other. And what a treat to work with the beautiful music created in the first SoS residential. I look forward to bringing back the new community choir material to my choirs here in Northern Ireland.
Thanks so much to everyone who nominated me for this”.
If you would like to find out more about the original Songs of Separation project, which took place on the Isle of Eigg, you can check out the ‘Making of Songs of Separation’ and other films, on the Songs of Separation YouTube page. And if you’d like to get hold of the original album, you can do so here.