London, England (RNS) Red Gallery in East London played host to Three Faiths Forum’s Shoreditch Singathon on Sunday. Around 150 Londoners came together to stretch their vocal cords in a basement filled with diverse artworks that address issues of faith, belief and identity.
The Singathon marked the end of 3FF’s Urban Dialogues art exhibition and the launch of its Mixed Up Chorus, an intercultural interfaith choir led by Royal Opera House Community Chorus director Jeremy Haneman.
“Satanists, agnostics, all are welcome,” Haneman said of the new choir. “It’s not about tolerating people who are different, but looking to them for inspiration. We’re looking to inspire people through music.”
Haneman plans to include classical, contemporary and popular songs from across the world in Mixed Up Chorus’s repertoire. “For me, all music is spiritual, irrespective of its provenance, as long as it touches you in some way,” he said.
Between Haneman’s singing workshops, which featured Santa Claus-inspired breathing exercises and a traditional Polynesian echo song, Singathon attendees heard performances by the British Humanist Association Choir, the London Youth Gospel Choir and the North Western Reform Synagogue’s Alyth Youth Singers.
Sophie Turner’s humanist choir performed “Galaxy Song” from “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” “Fix You” by Coldplay and “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed.
“‘Fix You’ has a nice message to it,” she said. “It’s about caring for other people. At your lowest ebb, there will always be people beside you to help. That’s a very humanist message.”
Turner said she is excited about the launch of Mixed Up Chorus, even though its Tuesday night rehearsals will clash with her choir’s meeting time.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. The more that people of different cultures and backgrounds talk to each other, the more barriers they break down,” she said.
Louis Graham has been singing with the North Western Reform Synagogue since he was five years old. His Alyth Youth Singers performed a mix of Hebrew and English songs at Sunday’s Singathon.
“I think it’s a great idea to bring cultures together and unite them with music. It’s almost like a universal language. Even when you’re singing in a language you don’t necessarily understand, you can still just connect with the music,” he said.
Eli Tamir is the schools and exhibitions officer for Urban Dialogues. She sang at the North Western Reform Synagogue as a child and will be coordinating Mixed Up Chorus with Haneman.
“I hope this is a real chance for individuals to express themselves, to feel part of a community, and to learn about one another’s cultures in an open, free and safe space,” she said. “Music is a wonderful way of transcending barriers. Anyone can connect to it, have their own voice and their own opinion about it. It’s a great way to build relationships.”
Musrat Ashraf plans to join Mixed Up Chorus when rehearsals formally start next week. She heard about Sunday’s event and the new choir through an interfaith Muslim and Jewish women’s group she attends.
“London is a very diverse city, and we often stick with people that are similar to us. We rarely get a chance to integrate unless we have a particular reason. This will be a nice way for everyone to come together and have fun,” Ashraf said.
A flyer advertising Mixed Up Chorus boasted, “This ad was written by a Jew, designed by a Catholic, approved by a Muslim and printed by a middle aged Hindu.” 3FF’s Urban Dialogues program, now in its fifth year, aims is to bring people of different cultures and religious backgrounds together through the arts.