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Women Sing East

December 5, 2009
by the gentle author

On an especially rainy night last week, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a wild party happening at the Brady Centre in Hanbury St, in fact it was Women Sing East gathering for their final rehearsal for their big concert next Wednesday. As I stood there, more and more women poured into the hall. “Oh you look like drowned rats!” exclaimed one as yet another posse of excited females arrived from the deluge outside into the steamy atmosphere inside, breathless and cheerfully dripping puddles everywhere.

All around me there were passionate greetings and animated conversations, as if it was some great reunion going on. What was it that was getting everyone so excited? I decided to take advantage of the cocktail party atmosphere and quickly work my way round the room as a means to find out more. The first woman I spoke to was Annie Cornbleet, “There’s something so therapeutic about us all singing together!” she enthused. Then Natalie Skefer, who has been a member for five years, confided to me that being in the choir was a way for her to “come home” to Spitalfields. Her great grandfather had been a Presser who lived on Hanbury St but when she went to find his house, the building was gone, so participating in this lively chorus of singers allows her to be part of the neighbourhood again.“It is a great deal of fun” declares Jane Sugarman, another member of long standing, who told me proudly she had joined to perform in Jonathan Dove’s large scale community cantata “On Spitalfields” which won a Royal Philharmonic Society Prize. Another woman admitted to me how much she valued “the challenge of taking myself out of my usual world for a couple of hours” but I never found out her name because the choir was about to be coralled into action by Laka D, the artistic director who everyone treated with awestruck respect and admiration.

Realised everything was getting started fast and wary lest my interview got lost in the momentum of the rehearsal, I hurried over to snatch a few words with Laka D herself. Graciously tolerant of my impertinent timing, the choir goddess put it in a nutshell for me, “It’s about singing together, having a laugh and stretching yourself further than you thought possible. It’s women of all ages, the youngest in their early twenties and the eldest … we won’t go there!” and she cast her eyes around the room inducing hilarity among the eager and passionate women, ready to give voice.

I managed to snap the group photo you see below, which I am sure you will agree serves as an ample illustration of the diverse and admirable qualities of the female sex. Then before I knew it they were all in a circle and the space was filled with divine singing. On this dark night of early December, as the freezing rain poured down upon the dark streets of Spitalfields, inside the bright warmth of this heavily curtained room all the women were singing together for joy.

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