Cantignorus Chorus, a Church of England Project, aims for the Christmas Charts with one of the UK’s most surprising choirs.

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profile-TomTom Daggett – who co-ordinates CTC’s SingSpire project – blogs on its “Cantignorus Chorus,” one of the choirs which he directs, and on its anthem of hope, ‘Holding out a helping hand’

Few things bring people hope better than singing with others. This is particularly true when faced with tumultous lifestyles, cycles of depression, and a sense of helplessness.

The Cantignorus Chorus set out to do precisely that – bring joy to people who’ve been given a rough time. It sought to do it by making a national statement of hope, by learning and recording ‘Holding out a helping hand’, penned by Rev Niall Weir of St. Paul’s West Hackney.

The 60-strong choir, boosted by 60 local children from Shacklewell Primary School, brought together service users and staff from front-line charities which minister to some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised in the UK. The efforts of the Cantignorus Chorus have received Church-wide support, not least from St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose choristers recorded the descants on the track, now available on iTunes.

The Cantignorus Chorus is an expression of flourishing and Godly relationships between local church and community – all the groups in the choir’s number meet in St. Paul’s West Hackney church hall, week in, week out. It’s a space where homeless men and women can enjoy a hot meal and counselling through North London Action for the Homeless, or where those in desperation can find a bed for the night through the Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

Choral singing has become a high-profile and trendy thing. No longer consigned to the realm of dusty cassocks and ageing anthem books, singing in a choir is increasingly being recognised as a hip, community-building – even healthy – pursuit.

Indeed, many community choirs throughout the country do staggering amounts of work for charity, singing in shopping centres or in rainy car parks while bucket collectors accost passers-by. Still others raise huge amounts for social justice projects – even existing solely to do something about changing the world we live in.

However, relatively few choirs in the country are actually comprised of the people whom they seek to serve. This is what makes choirs like ‘The Choir with No Name,’ or ‘The Cantignorus Chorus’ special. They are proud, life-affirming, and, above all, surprising musical communities.

Many in the Cantignorus Chorus had never sung a note before our first rehearsal in October. Yet, by 20th November, they found themselves in a recording studio, contributing their full hearts and voices to a charity Christmas single. It was a life-changing experience for everyone involved. Even more will this be true if folk up and down the country are willing to buy ‘Holding out a helping hand’, the proceeds of which are being donated entirely to the charities and groups who are proud members of the choir:

North London Action for the Homeless, Narcotics Anonymous, Hackney Winter Night Shelter, Open Doors, 4sight mental health lunch club, Family Mosaic, Over 70s dance group, Hackney Songworks, and, of course, St. Paul’s West Hackney.

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