Anne L Ryan reports Good Vibrations, The Cambridge Community Choir – St Luke’s Church, Cambridge 15 June 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Singing for Life - a fundraiser for LifeCraft, conducted by Rowena Whitehead, Talking in Tune.

On a warm sunny Friday evening, walking towards St Luke's Church, Victoria Road, Cambridge, the sound of 60 glorious voices wafted through the breeze. Cambridge's very own Community Choir, Good Vibrations was warming up, preparing to sing an evening of song from many different vocal traditions. Learning by ear, this choir's aim is to create a sound bigger than the sum of its parts! This they do with vocal acumen. Sheer joy emanated throughout the evening. From old songs, to new ones; from borrowed numbers to blue ones - whatever the feel of the song, the voices sounded it with heartfelt joy.

New songs like Fragile by Sting was sung sensitively to an arrangement by Gitika Partington. It prompted us to remember that nothing comes from violence, nothing could - ‘lest we forget how fragile we are'. Then, raising us from the blue, were songs from the 70s like Boney M's Rivers of Babylon or I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, where audience lips attempted the words - remembering halcyon times perhaps! A few old songs from soloists brought moments of intense listening; Miranda Gray's singing on Scottish The Mermaid Song was so poignant, with deftly played fiddle accompaniment from Tom Ling. Helen Chambers played mbira fluently on Karige Mombe, from Zimbabwe, singing beautifully with Salli and Bekki lamenting the deeds of a lazy husband.

Threaded through the programme were poems borrowed and spoken to harmonic soundscapes. Ishe Oiu War, a traditional Yoruba song from Nigeria was sung as Lesley Holly read the thought provoking Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson: ‘As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others'. Ama Ibu Oiye a song from the Congolese rainforest, was sung as Marian read In Praise of Singers by Michael Leunig. This celebrates all kinds of singers, even tuneless ones in the pub!

Special guest Daniela Mcdermott, percussionist and djembe player (and recently certified in reflexology), threatened to drum on your feet if given the chance. Her drumming grounded, lifted, contrasted and moved the vibe to new places - she beamed throughout! The LifeCraft Singers gleefully declared how bright our future is when they sang Yonder Come Day, a South Sea Islands song. Lastly came Chela, Cambridge's Georgian Choir, of whom Pam Adcock, Women of Note, says ‘when this group sings, their devotion to these songs transports the listener to the landscape of Georgia'.

It was a bliss-filled evening, with everyone singing out at the end on Sue Kirkpatrick's We are One World. The conductor Rowena Whitehead's face said it all as she received applause, flowers and adulation. It glowed with pride and sheer joy.

The proceeds of the evening went to Lifecraft to ensure the continued provision of vital services for people with mental health needs in Cambridge.

Good Vibrations, Cambridge's Community Choir has been singing together for over five years. As people come and go the blend of voices changes - at any one time there are around 60 singers. The success of the choir is attributed to the steadfast leadership of Rowena Whitehead and Sue Parlby. Founder members of the Natural Voice Practitioners' Network, they have been teaching and performing voice and song in Cambridge through Talking in Tune for over 20 years -

Writer: Anne L Ryan
Photographer: Jim Jones