The Choir of London has maintained a particular focus on work in the Middle East, with four large-scale visits to the region since 2004. On its 2007 tour of the region, the Choir joined with several local and international partner organisations to stage the Palestine Mozart Festival, bringing together over 200 local and visiting artists for a series of 19 events. The partnerships formed during this Festival were strengthened in 2009 with Choir of London’s participation in Al Kamandjati Association’s Music Days festival, to which the Choir of London and Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon, contributed a fully-staged production of Puccini’s La Bohème and gala concerts featuring Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Concerto (performed by Palestinian pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar) and the German Requiem by Brahms, alongside a full education programme. The Choir’s most recent project in Palestine was the Palestine Choral Festival in August 2013 which brought together five choirs from the UK, France, Germany and Australia with 25 choirs from across Palestine.

2008 saw the launch of the Choir’s Bursary Scheme for young Palestinian musicians, enabling young instrumental students to travel to the UK for stints of focused music tuition.This initial one-off project was reinstated on a yearly basis with generous support from the British Council.

The Choir has appeared at many major London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and LSO St. Luke’s. They work regularly with several of the UK’s leading choral conductors, including John Rutter, Nicholas Collon, Graham Ross, James Burton and Jeremy Summerly and have appeared regularly with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and, most recently, Aurora Orchestra.

This focus on intercultural connections is also evident in the Choir’s choice of repertoire for its debut CD: Sir John Tavener’s Lament for Jerusalem, a major work for choir and orchestra which weaves together Christian, Islamic, and Jewish texts. Shortly after the CD was released on the Naxos label in 2007, the Choir performed excerpts of the work at the opening of the British Library’s Sacred exhibition. 

The Choir aims to combine its charitable function with the very highest standards of musical performance, and has quickly established a reputation for excellence. It has maintained a substantial commitment to new music, and in recent years has given UK and world premieres of works by Stephen Leek, Tarik O’Regan, Matthew Orlovich, Anthony Pitts, Graham Ross, John Rutter, John Streeting, and John Tavener. 

The Choir of London was originally created in 2004 as a small ensemble of British singers who volunteered to assist in performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio being planned by a Palestinian choir in the West Bank. The project fell well outside the familiar parameters of the professional choral circuit: with very little funding available, musicians were asked to take part on a non-remunerated basis in a musical collaboration quite unlike anything that had previously been attempted in the Occupied Territories. 

The success of this first project vividly highlighted an enthusiasm amongst many professional musicians for a framework within which they could undertake stints of similar outreach and educational work. The result was that a group initially envisaged as a small, one-off, ad hoc ensemble has now developed into a permanent network of over 300 UK-based singers and instrumentalists.  Members are drawn from a number of Britain’s leading professional chamber choirs, opera companies, and orchestras, and include some of the UK’s finest young ensemble performers and soloists. All share a belief in the capacity of music to act as a source of challenge, inspiration, and hope. 

Choir of London projects aim to increase musical opportunities for people whose access to music would otherwise be limited, both in the UK and worldwide, through music education projects, the performance of first-class live music, and the encouragement of musical collaborations.  The Choir’s activities are also underpinned by a strong intercultural ethos which has seen it forge connections with artists and musical traditions of widely varying backgrounds. 

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Yet the response from London-based musicians approached to take part in the visit was overwhelmingly positive.  By the time the first incarnation of the Choir of London assembled for its inaugural project in December 2004, the touring party comprised almost fifty musicians, including a full chamber choir and the nucleus of an accompanying orchestra. Working closely with a number of Palestinian and international partner organisations, the Choir helped to stage a fully-fledged Palestine Bach Festival: a programme of workshops and joint concerts, involving over a hundred local and visiting performers, held in Ramallah and Bethlehem. Whilst in the region, the Choir also worked with two children’s choirs in Israel - the Efroni and Sawa choirs - creating a partnership which has continued to flourish in subsequent years.

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The Choir of London Trust is a UK Registered Charity no. 1112757.

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