Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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In harmony

November 01 2015
A Choir with No Name, performing last Christmas. A Choir with No Name, performing last Christmas.
The Choir with No Name are at the top of their game, with a gig planned at the Royal Festival Hall this Christmas.

“You meet a fine class of rebel at these places,” says Maryanne about the Choir with No Name rehearsals. Maryanne Pereira, 64, is a longstanding member of the South London group. Though now living happily in a council house with her partner Tom, she well remembers the struggles they had when he was homeless.

She knows she is in in good company here. The Choir with No Name runs choirs for homeless people and others on the margins. They claim to be a diverse bunch.

And the music they perform is also a mixed bag: pop, rock, soul, gospel, reggae, musicals – they claim they’ll give anything a go.

Musican Marie Benton was working for St Mungo’s when she first started the choir in 2008: “I started singing at choirs when I first came to London and it was a good way of making friends. So I felt that for people who don’t have the most positive relationships or the best support from their friends and family, it might be a good way to create a social network.”

This is certainly true of Maryanne, who says: “I’ve never met so many amazingly talented, intelligent, fear-free, ferocious people for their art and their belief in themselves. Even though their lives are rough and hard, it is gobsmacking and I feel privileged to have met these people.”

The choir has gone from strength to strength and there are now four choirs in three cities – London, Birmingham and Liverpool. They aim to bring their unique brand of togetherness, acceptance, ambition and fun to a new city every year – next up is Sheffield.

And now there’s more exciting news; all four choirs have been invited to perform at The Royal Festival Hall this Christmas.

Marie said: “The Birmingham and Liverpool guys all love the chance to come down here and meet each other. That sense of community is beautiful, actually.”

Maryanne said: “As a performer, it is a long day of preparations, from sound checks to stage positions. It is a terrific experience but takes stamina.”

She remembers meeting a woman from the Liverpool choir, who sang a solo to over a thousand people at last year’s Christmas gig. “That woman, never in a million years did she think that she would sing at the Union Chapel. And now, this year, she’s going to be on stage at The Royal Festival Hall! I mean, what would that do for your confidence? It’s so fantastic, I can’t tell you.”

When Maryanne first joined the choir she was running a failing market stall and Tom was homeless. She spent three harrowing years supporting Tom through it and says she was “Literally at rock bottom – I had no direction left to go in my life.”

But being part of the choir helped her. Though she considered herself ’tone deaf’ when she joined, she was soon able to celebrate success.

She said: “My confidence in myself and my abilities has been restored. It sort of crept up on me one day, that I realised I had succeeded at something – at last! I was part of something that was positive and rewarding and successful. I had never felt that way about anything else before.”

Her message to others? “Please have faith in yourself. No matter how horrible things may be, no matter how dark, hold on and hold on tight to your integrity, your heart, your mind. Know that there is something good, decent and worth loving within you and worth saving.”

All Pavement readers are welcome at rehearsals. To find out more about how to get involved: http://choirwithnoname.org

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