Kit Smart’s BlogBack to blog index

Back to blog index

Swapping Bach for Bowie: Choir at the Corn Exchange

On the 14th November, the Choir of Pembroke College performed at the Cambridge Corn Exchange alongside Gareth Malone, the Swingle Singers and the Ayoub Sisters.


Guest blog written by Anna Lapwood, Director of Music

As a Chapel Choir, our week to week commitments mainly revolve around singing religious music in the context of the College Chapel. When Gareth Malone asked us to join him for one concert in his UK tour, we were excited about the chance to do something different! It certainly made a change from our usual repertoire, swapping Attwood for Avril Lavigne and Bach for Bowie.

One of the biggest challenges for the Choir was trying to work out how to move naturally whilst singing. After a lesson in swaying from the Swingle Singers, we got down to rehearsing our three songs, before watching the tech run of the remainder of the show. It was amazing to watch the Swingles rehearse; their tuning and vowel production was phenomenal, and their voices are incredibly flexible.23602123_10154848538791786_1592322798_n

The concert itself was adrenaline-filled; performing on stage in front of 1400 is a feeling like no other. However, one of the best things about the concert was the fact that the whole audience ended up singing on multiple occasions, being encouraged to write their own song, and learning little bits of other songs so that they could join in. There’s something in credibly moving about collective music-making, uniting a group of that size in one activity. There was also something endearing about watching the husbands who had inevitably been dragged there by their wives; across the board, despite initial reluctance they ended up exhibiting more enthusiasm than the wives by the end of the concert!

Singing in this type of concert was particularly interesting following our trip to Zambia. Most of the work we were doing there involved a similar kind of collective music-making, albeit in a very different setting. Zambia also helped us to broaden our horizons; we were dancing with the locals almost every day, which certainly helped when it came to on-stage movement at the Corn Exchange!

21231253_10154665455206786_623497210641248849_nWe last worked with Gareth in September, when we spent a day recording in Abbey Road Studios with Gareth helping out in the recording booth. The recording was for Tom Chaplin’s latest Christmas Album, Twelve Tales of Christmas, which is out today! The recording  was just before we went to Zambia, and, amusingly, Gareth commented on the difference in the Choir before and after the trip, noting how much more free we seemed, and how our movement seemed much more natural. The Choir can be heard singing on the tracks ‘Walking in the Air’, ‘Midnight Mass’ and ‘For the Lost’.


If you want to hear Gareth and the Swingles again, you can still book tickets for the last three dates of the Tour! Find out more here:

Thoughts from the choir:

“Doing this concert with Gareth Malone has been one of the highlights of my time in Pembroke Choir. It was so fun to have a go at singing in a completely different style – and I got to fulfill my life dream of being a backing dancer!”

‘Rehearsing Avril Lavrine in the chapel was also humorous as I don’t quite think that’s what the public were expecting to hear when they walked in the chapel! It was so refreshing to sing pieces like this that we wouldn’t come across otherwise.”23634068_10154848538311786_481447991_o

Back to blog index