In December we held a Winter Concert like no other – with all the usual Songworks magic, but this time on Zoom. At a time when a sense of community has never felt more important, it was a joy to welcome friends and family to this very special event.
As with so much in 2020, an online concert was new territory for Songworks, so we were delighted that (after resolving the inevitable technical hitch) it proved a big success. We were overwhelmed by the appreciative feedback, which included:
“Best 90 minutes of 2020 without a doubt!”
“It brought such joy in these dark times so thank you for all that you do. It really means a lot.”
“That was the most fantastic concert and evening’s entertainment, incredibly well organised and moving.”
“An evening I will never forget. I am sure it will be the standout Christmas event for us all.”
If you weren’t able to be there on the night, or if you want to relive the moment, here’s a recording of the concert – sit back, relax and enjoy the Songworks magic! (For more details of the highlights and where to find them on the video, see below.)
Once again, the concert was in support of the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants, whose services are a lifeline for some the most vulnerable people in London. Any contribution you can make to their vital work would be hugely appreciated. Donate to the Islington Centre here.
Songs and films
The programme included the meditative De Noche (sung by candelight), One Day Like This by Elbow, which the choir was just getting to grips with when lockdown began, and Let Us Stand and In The Dark Times, two songs that evoke the spirit of togetherness in adversity that has been so important to Songworks this year. And choir member Joe rounded off the evening by leading a rousing singalong of festive favourite, Fairytale of New York.
Two moving films told the story of the choir’s year: highlights from the 2019 Winter Concert (at 15:48), followed by Songworks… Staying Connected (at 30:23) – a record of Songworks’ journey into the new virtual world of Zoom and WhatsApp during lockdown.
Contributions from friends and special guests
We were also delighted to present music and readings by some very special guests. Here are the highlights and where to find them on the video:
- Sita Brahmachari, who works at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants, read the poem Learning The Language of Birds by Jackie Morris (at 06:49).
- Juliet Stevenson read Kinder, a poem by Jackie Kay, filmed at Songworks’ 2020 winter concert (at 36:00).
- Poet and storyteller Margot Henderson joined us from Findhorn, Scotland, to read her poem We are all Refugees (at 55:17).
- Folk legend Maddy Prior and her daughter Rose Ellen Kemp performed a specially recorded arrangement of Blessed Quietness by Jimmy Swaggart (at 59:03).
- The inimitable Jon Snow sang The Best Noel, his own take on a Christmas classic, in support of the Centre (at 1:02:05).
- Choir member Hank read the poem History Will Remember by Donna Ashworth, a moving and hopeful poem about lockdown (at 1:17:55).
More about the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants
The Centre’s director, Andy Ruiz Palma, explained how staff and volunteers rose to the challenge when the pandemic hit, swiftly adapting their services and moving them online (at 49:10).
Angele Mambangula, who arrived in the UK five years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo to seek asylum, talked about how the Centre supported her when she needed it most, helping her to find somewhere to live, access financial support, learn English and meet new friends (at 49:15). She said:
“Lockdown has been difficult because I could not attend the Centre on a daily basis any more. I could not see my friends. I was frightened about coronavirus. But the Islington Centre has helped me throughout lockdown in a number of ways, including regular phone calls from the staff and volunteers, and a timetable of classes and activities. It has helped me get online and feel more confident in the digital world.”
Any contribution you can offer to help the Centre continue these vital services into 2021 will be much appreciated – you can donate online here.
Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who helped make the concert happen, including the planners and singers, the video-makers and contributors, all the friends and family who came along, and everyone who has already generously donated to the Islington Centre’s work – so far we’ve raised a staggering £2,326!