On a blustery evening at the start of advent, the pews of a lofty church in Bermondsey are filled with scenes from Love Actually. There’s Prime Minister-style dancing, Bill Nighy-esque energy and of course, a lobster. Plus songs sung by Some Voices, a choir with an unshakable sense of community.
Left to right: Georgia, Greg, Doulla, Dave (in hat), Vicky (in teal), Helen, Paul, Sabrina (in black), Steve (in scarf), Josh, Casey (in pink), Neha, Louise (facing the back).
Louise (co-director): I think it’s not just a choir. It’s a community. That’s the big thing. Anyone can join and we do really mean anyone can sing.
Georgia (co-director): I think there is an image of a choir. Very carols at Christmas. Maybe older vibes. Something very classical. And I think Some Voices is exactly the opposite of that.
Paul: There’s a real sense of feeling part of something. And it’s quite addictive. It’s the reason we keep coming back for more. Once you have that taste of it, it’s really, really moreish.
Doulla: It’s the rush you get when you’re one voice amongst 300 or 400. You hear an energy and a joy of singing.
Neha: A sense of belonging.
Greg: It’s a way for me to be more artistic. I do a lot of academic, boring, corporate stuff during my daytime.
Steve: I’m a massive show off so to be able to have an excuse as a grown-up to be able to get up and belt out a tune on stage is quite unusual. I think I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had here. What keeps me coming is people more than anything.
Greg: And the harmonies. Laura, the founder… she’s amazing.
Casey: I’m out of my comfort zone a lot of the time. It sounds a cliché but everyone is genuinely lovely.
Vicky: To be honest it’s become a sort of extended family really. I got my partner to come watch a show, a good few years ago. Then I dragged him along to choir and he’d sit at the back a little bit. And now he loves it. He’s kind of a star himself really.
Steve: He’s huge.
Vicky: A beautiful, tall Italian man. And it’s done wonders for both of us. He loves the costumes. When he performed at Heaven, he wore a harness and angel wings and strutted around.
Paul: It’s the secret to a good life. The connection between our bodies and the music. The vibrations of the universe. It untaps something that is really natural within you. You want to keep coming back to experience this. It’s like a truth.
Doulla: All children sing quite naturally. Like all children paint and dance. It’s something that we have socialised out of us as we get older. I feel really liberated when I’m here, almost childlike. And it’s the connection with others. My voice isn’t great but it’s the mindset that ‘OK, on my own, maybe I don’t have the best voice’ but in amongst this community you can create this really beautiful sound.
Dave: I don’t consider myself a good singer. But I know my voice has improved. Just by standing next to people and listening. I always say to people you can sing.
Helen: If you can hum, you can manipulate that.
Dave: It’s just about getting over that first hurdle.
Helen: It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong. ‘Strong and wrong’ is what we say.
Sabrina: It’s such a good lesson in life. Just go for it.
Louise: There’s something everyone loves in it. And we started listening to the soundtrack and we went ‘there are really great songs’. Not all the same genre like ‘Jump (For My Love)’ which is older disco. And then really 90s stuff like the Sugababes.
Steve: And there’s a lot of people that end up sobbing. Good sobbing. It’s Love Actually. It’s an emotional national treasure.
Helen: We act the parts that are in the film. I’m the shy, retiring, naked porn star woman.
Louise: We did the soundtrack to the movie Romeo and Juliet and someone proposed live on stage. It was a surprise for everyone and they were both in the choir. We have many Some Voices couples. Some Voices babies.
Doulla: It’s about throwing yourself into it. Actually everyone’s got a voice. This is exactly the antithesis of you have to get the note right. This is about getting the feeling of the song right, and then the note usually follows.
Josh: I was basically the perfect example of that. I’d basically never sung. I showed up and even at rehearsals I was petrified. Over the years I learnt more how to sing and built that confidence. I remember having to have a few shots before I got on stage the first time.
Dave: It’s worth taking that step. You’re always nervous starting a new thing.
Helen: Especially as an adult. You’re like ‘how do I make friends again?’. But everyone’s in the same position.
Louise: We started in London in 2010 and we’ve got 850 + members in London but we’ve also got choirs in Newcastle, Cambridge, York, Brighton, Stroud, Wimborne and the idea is to carry on branching out in the country. And doing more productions.
Georgia: I’ll probably be having a big cry on Wednesday.
Louise: The comedown. Luckily, we have Christmas to come.
Georgia: Christmas Schmistmas.
To find out more about Some Voices, check out their website.