Blog: Cycle of Songs Rehearsal at Kettle's Yard

Wednesday 4th June 2014 marked the first rehearsal for the Cycle of Songs Community Choir. The Cycle of Songs Choir is a free and open-to-all choir that has been set up to give people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to sing together and celebrate the arrival of the Tour de France in Cambridge, and to offer an opportunity often missing in Cambridge, to be able to sing together as a family too.


The Choir rehearses for three sessions on Wednesday evenings (4th, 11th, 18th June) from 7.00pm - 8.30pm at various venues across Cambridge to learn songs specially composed for this project, with each rehearsal starting with a performance at 6.30pm by a collaborating choir, poet, composer or musician to welcome the singers to the venue and to share and showcase the talent involved in the project.


The first of the rehearsals took place at Kettle’s Yard gallery and house, offering the singers a unique and rare experience to sing in one of the city’s most remarkable spaces.  You can see from the pictures that the performers enjoyed interacting with the art objects in this special space. 


The evening began with two Cycle of Songs collaborating musicians rehearsing a piece that they will be performing for the Cycle of Songs project, entitled ‘To Seek a Dream’. Alex Cook, composer of the piece, settled himself at the piano and Hannah Brock, musician, prepared her Gu zheng, an ancient Chinese instrument, and Cello, surrounded by some of the twentieth century’s most beautiful artworks.  Here is a photo of Hannah and Alex taking a break between rehearsal and performance to pose for photos amongst the sculpture:


Following a rehearsal between Hannah and Alex, the choir members gradually arrived and filled the ground floor of Kettle’s Yard. As they entered they were greeted with some choice pieces performed individually, Alex playing a moving piece he has composed for piano inspired by the true story of Anka, a survivor of the Holocaust; and Hannah performing a remarkable rhythmic piece called “Dream” on the Gu zheng which she described to the singers as a kind of Chinese Zither. After a wonderful half hour set which mesmerized those listening, the pair packed up their instruments and scores, allowing the Cycle of Songs Choir to begin their rehearsal in the gallery space.

Rowena Whitehead leading the Cycle of Songs Choir

After some introductions from Helen Weinstein and Marcus Romer the evening was led by Rowena Whitehead, the Choral Leader for Cycle of Songs. She welcomed everyone and warmed them up with vocal exercises, and then proceeded to get all 60 members of the choir to sing in harmony with a piece she’d taught the crowds at the Cycle of Songs launch event in May, an African song entitled ‘Vela Vela’.


The room was packed with singers, put at their ease by Rowena, so relaxed, happy, and ready to learn the Cycle of Songs anthem, ‘Why We Ride’. This song is composed by Kirsty Martin and Rowena Whitehead and is based on a poem of the same name by Hollie McNish with the rapper and poet Inja.


It wasn’t long before the choir had achieved an impressive understanding and performance of the song. They even had some extra fun singing it to each other from the balcony above, exploring some of the wonderful spaces throughout gallery. It was good to circulate to create a sense of listening across the parts and to play with the unusual space.  Of course, it also created some great photographs too, having the singers divided across the levels of the gallery in song, and we have these grouped in the Flickr site where you can search for them via “Kettles’s Yard”. 

Cycle of Songs Choir view from balcony

Cycle of Songs Choir view from ground level

The evening concluded with a round of applause and some great progress having being made, as well as lots of enjoyment.


The Cycle of Songs Choir had been launched in a fantastic venue, giving many people the opportunity to sing in a space that had originally been designed to display artwork and accommodate musical recitals.  Also, experiencing the leadership of Rowena Whitehead, such a dynamic and careful choir leader, was appreciated by all who were there!

Rowena Whitehead, Choir Leader for Cycle of Songs

The event also marked the first time that many people attending had sang in a choir, the first time that many had been in Kettle’s Yard, and it brought many friends and generations into a space to sing together and celebrate the city’s heritage and the vibrancy of its present.  


To learn more about the musicians Alex Cook and Hannah Brock, and the piece ‘To Seek a Dream’ you can click here

To learn more and to listen to ‘Why We Ride’ you can click here

To visit the Cycle of Songs Flickr group where you can find all of our photos from this rehearsal you can click here. To find images from this rehearsal, search within the group for Rehearsal1 or Kettle's Yard.

Blog: Cycle of Songs Rehearsal at Kettle's Yard


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