The Choir with No Name in concert. Image: The Choir with No Name.

28 November 2017

There's so many remarkable choirs of all shapes and sizes around the UK that we thought it would be interesting to find out more about some of them, and to share their achievements and music-making with a wider audience. To launch what we hope will become a regular series, we meet The Choir with No Name.

The Choir with No Name is a small charity running choirs for people who’ve experienced homelessness and marginalisation. Founded in 2008 as a single choir in North London, the charity now runs four ensembles  in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, and plans to launch a new choir in Brighton in 2018.

All the choirs rehearse once a week and sit down together for a hot, nutritious meal afterwards. Members will typically have experience of range of challenges, including relationship breakdown and bereavement, substance dependency and social isolation. For people in such positions, choir can be truly transformative, a first step towards restoring the self-confidence they need to get back on their feet and away from homelessness long-term.

Dan joined Choir with No Name Liverpool when he was 20 years old, the same age as many members of the National Youth Choir. The rest of this profile is his story:

"It’s crazy to think of that period in my life compared to my life now. It’s like black and white, totally contrasting. I’d been kicked out of the house and had moved into a hostel, which was hell. If my life was a ladder, at the time I joined choir I was on the very bottom rung. Coming to choir got me out of the hostel and brought me out of my shell. At that point I had retracted inside myself as a way of guarding against the world. Coming to choir was the start of me climbing up that ladder and slowly but surely I got to where I am today – a confident, outgoing person.

Music allows me to express myself and is a distraction from the negative stuff in my head. Wednesday is a day where I’ll wake up and know that whatever happens, it’s choir that night and that’s all that matters. I can look forward to it, leave my troubles at the door, and just sing. Simple.

I have changed exponentially since joining choir. I am more confident talking to people and more open about what happened to me – at the time I didn’t want anyone to know what situation brought me to be living in a hostel.

I was 20 when my dad kicked me out. It was a brutal awakening, especially since at that time I had totally isolated myself - spending 20 hours a day in my room and hiding from the world.  It was a wake up call. I didn’t want to do anything other than sleep all day and stay in my room. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and was clearly depressed. We had been evicted from my childhood home, and had been moved into a really grotty house. We eventually got evicted from that house too, and my Dad moved with my younger sisters into a place for single parents to live with kids under 20.  I was told I couldn’t go with them. I felt betrayed – there was no attempt to help me get better, get out of my head, out of my room before being booted out of my home with nothing.  I needed support, which I never got. I was really angry for a long time about that, although we’re starting to rebuild bridges now.  My Dad comes to choir gigs, which is great and my connections with family are stronger now than they ever were.

In a hostel there is no personal space. I would just lock myself away and play video games to escape the daily hell of living there. When I found choir, I would think ‘I just need to make it through the next 6 days until next rehearsal’ and it really helped me. I also joined a creative writing class, so between the two activities, it meant I could make it through and was guaranteed to be out of the hostel for two nights a week.  Now I am living in a flat on my own. The feeling of walking in my own front door is amazing.

Choir is a really happy space - I’ve made a lot of life-long friends. Being in choir feels like you are part of something a lot bigger than yourself, and means having a camaraderie with each other. It feels amazing to be part of something like Choir with No Name. The feeling of singing a solo on stage never dies - the pride and euphoria swells in you. It’s fantastic.’

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