We are a strange yet open and inclusive choir that meets in leeds. We come from all over the place, and try to act more like a band or a gang than a choir.
we sing our own songs, about the world immediately around us, about inequality, hope, and tory politicians. we have two albums and various other bits and bats available for purchase here on our shop page. for more information about us, about who we are and what we do, look around the website.
Commoners choir also have a facebook page (where we post news of upcoming events etc), a youtube channel full of videos and short documentaries about what we've been up to, and a patreon page.
Listen! By Commoners & Co • Directed and edited by Carolyn Edwards & Phil Moody
Featuring Commoners Choir with a host of voices in support of the ‘Let The Music Play’ Campaign, March 2021
Listen! written by Boff Whalley and Commoners Choir • Mastered by Phil Snell
For this song, Commoners Choir has opened its ranks to singers and musicians across Britain, to join us in singing a song for all those who work in the music industry, whose livelihoods are being wrecked by an ignorant, elitist government that cares nothing for art and artists.
In January, news was leaked (and subsequently confirmed) that during Brexit negotiations the British government had rejected an EU offer of free movement for musicians in Europe. This limits and denies musicians’ ability to tour without mountains of paperwork and complex restrictions in each country, at each border.
At the same time, it has been abundantly clear that over the past year of a crippling pandemic, there has been a complete refusal by this government to adequately support musicians and the music industry as a whole, including venues, technical workers, record shop owners, tour and festival organisers. Musicians – along with many other artists – are being been sidelined and ignored.
Campaigns supporting musicians:
Stagehand – stagehand.org.uk • Backup – backuptech.uk • Musicians Union Hardship Fund – musiciansunion.org.uk
Let The Music Play – ukmusic.org • Save Our Venues – saveourvenues.co.uk • I Love Live – crowdfunder.co.uk/i-love-live
Nick Harper • Findlay Napier • Lou Watts • Beccy Owen • Robb Johnson • Mike Harding • Kirsty Martin • Steve Ignorant • Tony Wright (Terrorvision) • Michelle Plum • Nick Hall • David Eagle (Young ‘Uns) • Danbert Nobacon • Tracey Curtis • Rowan Godel • Ray Hearne • Jo Freya • Jim Boyes • Lee Goulding (Merry Hell) • Bob Kettle (Merry Hell) • Neil McCartney (Merry Hell) • Mik Artistik • Neil Ferguson • Jay & Erin (Nervous Twitch) • Jen Pugh (Astraluna) • Anna Bluston • George Daniel Long • Rory McLeod • Rich Huxley (Hope & Social) • Phil Snell • Joe Solo
The lyrics were written by Sarah Woods, the film made by Phil Moody and Carolyn Edwards in collaboration with land artists Sand In Your Eye.
'These Are The Bastards' (below) is Commoners Choir's third lockdown video – the perfect partner to our 'These Are The Hands' song (see below).
We've set up a Commoners Choir Patreon page!
For those of you who have no idea what that means, let us explain –
You may know who we are and what we do – we're Commoners Choir and our aim is to keep testing the perceived normal of what a choir does. You'll find us collaborating, walking, banner-making, re-enacting, recording, protesting, filming, teaching, disrupting and yes, singing. We are constantly striving to challenge our own boundaries and create events that celebrate collective achievements. We aim to react to the ever-changing world and reflect and question it in song. We want to be a collective voice with a shared vision, but one that doesn’t rest on its laurels. We actively seek out stories and ideas that need to be shared.
Patreon is an online system whereby you can support and be part of what we do. By donating and being a Patron of Commoners Choir you will be helping to sustain the day-to-day inspiration to write, to think, to plan, to create, to tour. You can support us to think bigger than we already do. Donations start from as little as £1 a month.
By becoming a Patreon supporter you will be contributing to the choir’s ambitions and will also connect yourself firmly into the strange and fascinating world of Commoners Choir. Once you decide to be a Commoners patron you'll have access to up-to-date blogs about what’s happening now and in the immediate future, films of our rehearsals, recordings and video-making, a full, fascinating and interactive History of Commoners Choir, and the chance to hear songs and ideas as they develop. We’ll send out specific and special Patreon gifts, you'll get the first look and listen to everything we do and we will invite you to feed back on any of the diverse projects we are planning.
In short, becoming a Patron will give you access to our work and will connect you to its development. Patreon is a way for anybody to help with the nuts and bolts of our work, to keep the fire in our bellies and the melodies on our tongues. Commoners Choir is made for these strange and confusing times and in the middle of this madness we want, with your support and input, to continue to be a sane, invaluable and even louder voice.
The song was written by Boff and Commoners and was recorded by the choir in their separate homes on their separate phones and laptops and sent separately to be united, joined, gathered, merged and squashed together into a lovely whole. The film was made by Commoner Rachel Dean and was edited by Commoner Carolyn Edwards.
And here's the song and video for 'Singing Together Apart'. The song was written to try understand the idea that this huge bunch of people were suddenly no longer able to meet and sing together. The sheer physicality of 70+ people in a room, singing, is impossible to emulate on screens, separated and distanced.
But recording this song in our kitchens, living rooms and gardens and then being able to see how it can come together to make a proper Commoners Choir song is a way to remind us of how we can still, through all this, be a shouty, laughing, gang of a choir.
The tune is vaguely Italian, inspired by the lovely films of Italians in quarantine singing together on their balconies.
I Get Locked Down, But I Get Up Again
I know it’s cheesy but I’m allowed to use that heading, aren’t I? Surely?
As the social distancing and self-isolation enters its third week, I’m stuck on a quote by George Monbiot –
“You can watch neoliberalism collapsing in real time.”
However awful the pandemic is turning out to be, and however grim our forecasts for capitalism’s response once we’re out the other side, it’s clear that communities – all sorts of communities, from workplaces to streets to online friendship groups – are pulling together right now in a way we haven’t seen on such a scale before. Socialism and community are working to get us through this while capitalism is floundering.
I have no idea if, as we eventually head out blinking back into the streets and pubs, we’ll all remember how the wealthy and powerful failed to act decisively and early because they were scared of harming the great god economy. But I’m hoping that, at least, we will remember how strangers started to connect and become friends, people on the street we’d never even said hello to. I’m hoping we’ll remember the way we revered and praised NHS workers and that the memory will drive us to make sure the NHS is valued, rewarded and above all protected.
I’ve been part of Commoners Choir for several years now, and along the way I’ve thought long and hard about exactly what it is about this choir that keeps us all coming. Here’s a neat list:
1. It’s a place to sing together, because we love singing. Singing in a group is demonstrably good for you. There are science-based academic papers and everything to prove it.
2. It’s a place to socialise with like-minded people, physically, as an escape from the malaise of screen-based counterfeit community.
3. It’s a way to express our anger, hopes and fears for the world around us, together – a way to shout about what’s wrong and celebrate what’s right.
These three things together are a powerful mix. All three involve community, sharing and kinship. So how were we to carry on this incredible spirit while we were all in our separate boxes, worrying about our own and our families’ safety as we watched neoliberalism collapse on repeat play? Singing as a choir on screens didn’t work. The software just wasn’t clever enough to sync together 60 or 70 people’s voices. We tried it. Someone recorded a small part of us singing together online, on Zoom, and I really hope you never get to hear it. Instead we decided to have our weekly Monday rehearsal meetings without the rehearsal bit – now it’s Parish Notices, warm-ups, quizzes, ghost stories, jokes... there are upwards of 40 or 50 of us meet up and we look like Celebrity Squares but sound like a PG Tips advert. The one with the monkeys. Along the way we come up with plans and ideas and we somehow carry on as a beautifully chaotic choir.
And here’s one thing that has come out of this: an attempt to write a song about singing together even as we’re separated; a song for Commoners Choir to sing, separated physically but together in spirit. A sort of big online collaboration that depended on us all working together while we were standing in our own kitchens and living rooms singing along to voices we could only imagine.
As we sang separately, we filmed ourselves, all of us, and now both the song and the film are being put together. It’ll be another week or so before it’s edited and finished, but the result will hopefully be a demonstration of (as I said earlier) socialism and community working to get us through this. The song is called ‘Singing Together Apart’ and features about 60 voices. The tune is based on something traditionally Italian, in respect of those lovely little films of Italian people singing together across their balconies during this pandemic. Our film should be done soon, and we’ll let you know when it is. So yes, we get locked down etc, and in this case we definitely are allowed to use the awful punning headline.
Oh, and we’re still sending out copies of our new album ‘Untied Kingdom’ for as long as the Post Office workers continue to do their incredible work (all the hand-laced sleeves have been suitably quarantined for a couple of weeks). The tour we were in the middle of putting together will resume at some point later in the year – by which time our singing of ‘Singing Together Apart’ will hopefully be a marker for a time that’s passed, a time when, in our isolations, we began to fully understand and embrace community.
New album 'Untied Kingdom' is now available to buy from our shop.
the limited edition version of 'untied kingdom' comes in a fancy-schmancy lace tie-up sleeve and is just over 50 minutes long.
the album is a state-of-the-nation look at this place we call home. it's not like the last album: it's better.
There's a new section on the website – see the list of pages above now includes 'Study', which is exactly that: an academic study of Commoners Choir, its inception and its links to the radical history of singing and walking. It's written by Lisa Taylor (Leeds Beckett University) and is published in Leisure Studies, a collection of academic papers. It's called:
Real change comes from below: walking and singing about places that matter; the formation of Commoners Choir
...and is a detailed look at how this bunch of ne'er-do-wells came together almost three years ago to sing 'Get off your arse!' and walk up some big hills, all in the grand tradition of William Morris, the Clarion Clubs, and countless other determined folk.
C h o i r a l S c r a t c h
7" vinyl EP
Six singalong Protest Songs in a fold-out sleeve –
Available now: See SHOP for details