Here, Tom brings us up to date with some exciting developments…
It is often said that there are two things which bring people together better than anything else – food and music! Music can inspire us. It can be a catalyst for change in our lives. It can be a powerful way of bringing people together. The Centre has developed an innovative music programme, ‘SingSpire’, which will help churches to bring people together, through song. Our programme has recently received financial support from the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund, and widespread support from within church music and community music circles.
In the past couple of years, as an extension of our work in community organising, we have helped to establish three groups in partnership with the Salvation Army in Stepney – the hugely popular parent and toddler group ‘Babysong’, a musical theatre group for primary school children, and a community Gospel choir. Along the way, we’ve picked up lots of learning about what works in using music to unite communities.
Having recognised the joy which participatory music activities can bring to people’s daily lives, and the increased national awareness of community music (partly thanks to Gareth Malone), we wanted to find a way to bring some of this energy to churches, particularly in areas of deprivation and diversity – and where little activity currently exists.
Our vision is to see more churches recognise the value of high-quality music and to use it creatively in building a stronger community life within the church and also more widely, with others (regardless of beliefs of background). We want to see high-quality music flourishing in more churches, in new and sustainable ways.
‘SingSpire’ will work with local churches, using the tools of community organising to create new grassroots music groups. We will equip churches to broaden their musical ministry, developing local responses to local needs.
One of our flagship projects, in partnership with St. Paul’s West Hackney, is the ‘Cantignorus Chorus’ – a brand new, community choir formed from the groups which use the church hall. The group’s diversity is extremely exciting: from North London Action for the Homeless, to the Open Doors Charity for those working in the sex industry. In total 8 groups are being brought together (including members of the congregation), to rehearse and professionally record a song, written by the Parish Priest, the Revd Niall Weir.
SingSpire’s work will include resourcing churches in Tower Hamlets, Hackney, and Newham, in its first year of work. We are extremely grateful to the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund, and as our work begins, we are actively pursuing other sources of funding which will help ‘SingSpire’ to make as big a splash as possible! Music is for everyone. Let the music begin. Let churches and communities sing, together.