Who are we?
Red Leicester Choir are an enthusiastic group of about 30 people with a passion for singing in unaccompanied four-part harmony. Originally a Worker’s Education Association (WEA) evening class, Songs of Struggle and Celebration from Around the World, we became an independent choir in 1996. We aim to be open access, so we have no auditions. We are members of Musicians Against Nuclear Arms (MANA) and the National Federation of Music Societies (Making Music).
When and where do we meet?
We rehearse on Wednesday evenings during school term time, from 7.30 to 9.30 at Secular Hall, Humberstone Gate, Leicester (opposite Sainsbury’s). The hall we use is on the ground floor so if you come by bike, feel free to bring it in with you. The hall is accessible for wheelchair users, but unfortunately the womens’ toilet facilities are on the first floor and there is no lift. The Secular Hall has plans to install a ground floor disabled toilet. There are regular bus services to Humberstone Gate and Charles Street, and on-street car parking is available nearby. After rehearsals, some of us go for a drink at The Ale Wagon on Charles Street, and everyone is welcome to come along.
What do we sing?
Red Leicester’s repertoire comes from all over the world and includes historical and contemporary songs expressive of social and political protest, and songs of worldwide celebration, struggle and change. Our influences include the peace movement, civil rights, women’s movement, gay rights, workers’ rights and environmental issues. We encourage creative talent in the choir; several of the members have penned witty and satirical lyrics to well-known tunes, with stirring harmonies provided by arrangements composed by our musical director, Jane Bursnall. We learn both by ear and with sheet music.
Where do we sing?
We perform locally and nationally in support of national and international causes. Each year, in June/July, we perform at the National Street Music Festival (in Whitby this year). Every two years we perform at Raise Your Banners Festival of Political Song, held mid November. Several choir members take an active part in running Leicester Sing for Water, which has taken place during the Riverside Festival for five years now, and has raised over £25000 for WaterAid in total. Here are some of the things we’ve done from September 2011 to September 2012:
- September 2011: We sang at the CND Garden Party and at London Sing for Water.
- October: We busked for a new mini-bus for Age UK – as theirs had been destroyed in the riots in August 2011. On October 1 we sang at Helen’s Birthday Bash at St Phillips Church, Evington Road.
- November: On the 25/26 We performed the Show of Hands song Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed at Raise Your Banners Festival of Political Song in Bradford. On November 30 there was a demonstration in Leicester (and other cities) about the cuts to public sector pensions. Red Leicester sang to the strikers as they entered Athena for the rally and again at the end of the rally.
- December: On the 4th, some members led the carols at LOROS during the switching on of the Christmas Tree lights.
- January: On the 27th we sang the Internationale at Don Connolly’s funeral.
- February: On the 4th we sang to the EDL Counter March organised by Leicester UAF.
- March: On the 10th, many of us went to Wellingborough to hear Leon Rosselson singing at the Wellingborough Diggers Festival. On March 17 Red Leicester organised an evening of song and dance for the Bondhon charity supporting a community project in Bangladesh. We made over £550. On March 24 Some Red Leicester members went to the Community Choirs Festival in Stratford on Avon. We didn’t have enough sopranos or basses to perform but joined in the mass singing.
- May: On the 5th we sang at the City of Sanctuary Summer Fair at the Friends Meeting House. On May 13 we performed at a CND/Amnesty Music Event at the Red Tent in Pocklington’s Walk.
- June: On the 7th we sang at Jan Crewe’s funeral in Loughborough. June 9 was Leicester Sing for Water.
- July: On the 7th we busked for the Ugandan Humanist Schools Trust and raised £75. From the 13th to the 15th we attended the Street Choir Festival in Bury, Lancashire, and performed the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and Farewell to Welfare.
- During July and August we had a programme of summer activities, including walks, a visit to London, and several parties.
- September 2012: On the 2nd, we sang again at the CND Garden Party, which raised £1400. On September 9 it was London Sing for Water.
If you’re exhausted just reading that list, don’t worry – not every member performs at every gig, and some prefer not to perform at all, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities to get involved!
How are we funded?
Members pay subscriptions to cover the costs of running the choir. These include the hire of rehearsal space, musical director fees, sheet music, insurance and membership of other organisations. Subscription rates on a sliding scale are £60 (waged), £35 (low waged) and £12 (unwaged), payable three times a year at the start of each term. It is also possible to pay half a term at a time. New members are charged £1 per week for three weeks while they decide if they want to join. We sometimes charge other organisations for our performances. Bookings can be arranged by contacting Veronica on 0116 2703143.
How are we organised?
Red Leicester Choir operates democratically, with a Management Committee, a Repertoire Group, and an Annual General Meeting. Meetings are open to all members and minutes are always available. We have a constitution, which is available on request.
How do I join Red Leicester?
You can come along to a rehearsal at any time of the year (please remember that we only meet during school term times though!) New/prospective members are always made very welcome. We will only ask you to pay £1 a week for your first three visits, while you decide if this is the right choir for you. We will help you to find the part (bass, tenor, alto or soprano) that suits you and to pick up some of the words and notes we are all learning. If you would like to speak to someone before coming along, you can call Veronica on 0116 2703143. Every year we have a special New Members’ Evening in September.