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'Distance Between': singing and Solidarity in the Wrenathon

Musical Director of Sing Tower Hamlets and freelance vocal leader, Leanne Sedin, writes...

Working with St Katharine Cree on the Wrenathon was really special for us. In addition to Sing Tower Hamlets performing being hosted by St Katharine Cree on the day of the Vocal Marathon itself, we also had the opportunity to work with some of the church's established community as part of the wider Wrenathon programme. Through a series of workshops, singers from Sing Tower Hamlets joined together with the majority-Spanish-speaking community of the church, to learn some songs together, talk about the songs we loved and carry with us, discuss we identified with different lyrics, and ultimately write an original piece of music together, to be performed at the Vocal Marathon.

A theme that kept coming up in the discussions was around being split between two places - many of this community originating from Central and South America, having moved to the UK to work - as well as the different things in our lives that keep us going. It was clear these things needed to be expressed in song - and lyrics were developed from these discussions. It was incredibly special for Sing Tower Hamlets to perform the resulting song, entitled "Distance Between", at St Katharine Cree at the Vocal Marathon on 24th June, with one of the workshop participants joining in to sing, and many more in the audience, hearing their own words reflected back.

Another joyful thing to come out of this collaboration was Sing Tower Hamlets learning to sing in Spanish for the first time! We were guided on pronunciation by members of the St Katharine Cree community as we learnt the song "Ya Basta!" (meaning "enough!"), which includes the words of Spanish poet Antonio Machado: "caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar". This translates to "walker, there is no path - the path is made by walking" - and this was certainly our experience journeying through this new and exciting collaboration together.

I'm so grateful for the warmth and generosity with which we were welcomed in by the community of this church, and hosted by Priest-in-Charge Josh Harris and chaplaincy team members Ivonne Loján and Claire Moll Namas. It was a really special collaboration and we hope to build on it in the future!

On a personal note, it was delightful following our performance to then go and see various diverse choirs performing in other Square Mile churches - several of which I stepped foot in for the first time. I'd love to see this kind of event happen again in the future!

Revd Josh Harris writes...

We were so delighted to welcome Leanne Sedin to St Katharine Cree for these singing and story sharing workshops, and the fantastic performance by Sing Tower Hamlets of a new song written out of those workshops. As the Guild Church for Workers in the City, we are building community and relationships of trust and solidarity among workers here - including the many who have travelled from around the world to contribute to the prosperity and vibrancy of the City of London. As followers of the creator God, we know that music, art, singing, and sharing the stories which make sense of our lives is such an important way in which we can do this.

We are grateful to support from the Diocese of London, Wren 300, and the superb producer of this event, Holly Hunter.


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