The choir began in 1999 though our earliest documentary evidence is this letter to the Coop Bank in 1998, asking for an account. Here is our first ever newsletter, and pictures of our first co-leaders, Jules Gibb and Faith Watson. We were a performance choir from the outset: joining in the Castlefield Carnival, singing for International Women’s Day and, most ambitiously, in 2000 staging the 18th ‘Street Music Festival‘, which in those days consisted of just 14 choirs.
This all took a lot of organisation from the word go. Here are one timetable, and another, from the year 2000, and publicity leaflets from 2000 and 2001. Here too are some pictures of Ruth Abraham making our banner. And in 2000 we did our first survey of members: a decade and a half later, we’re still doing them!
We sang for causes we believed in. In 2001 we went to the fourth socialist Raise Your Banners festival. In January 2002 we took part in Holocaust Memorial Day, singing Something inside so strong. “The evening will be supported by contributions from diverse community organisations, performance poet Lemm Sissay, the Halle Orchestra and the Manchester Community Choir.” Read more here. And watch the video:
We have a fragmentary record of events then, though it was so busy in 2002 that two newsletters – this one and that one – seem to have been produced in the same month. Notably, in August 2002, the Choir was part of the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. Here are some mementoes: a rehearsal schedule, the front page of a contractual release form – and is this a picture of the choir’s performance?
It was not long after the rehearsal pictures shown here were taken that Carol Donaldson became choir leader, in 2003. The choir was no longer just the brain-child of its founders but had taken on a life of its own. In January 2004 we joined in the Manchester Against Racism launch rally. Chris Edwards published a report of the event and a recording of us singing (of uncertain quality).
In 2005 we sang for peace in the Manchester Peace Garden (two more pictures here and – basses – here). This secured us an honourable mention on the Peace Tax Seven website on International Conscientious Objectors’ Day. Asylum-seekers have always been close to our hearts, and we sang in July of that year in their support: here is a poster and a programme. A song touching on both these themes that we sang then (and now) is ‘Durme’, a lullaby in the Ladino language spoken by Sarajevo Jews. We sang it at the 2006 Street Choirs Festival (here is a picture of the massed sing), and one member of the audience was so deeply moved by the memories that the song evoked of Hanna Levy-Hass, her old friend from Sarajevo who survived the death camps, that she wrote to us about it.
On 13-15 July 2007 we hosted the 2007 National Street Choir Festival.
We didn’t rest on our laurels that year, though. Here are some pictures – and some more – of us in rehearsal then. We also featured at the September feast at Bardsley Church. And we joined in the Open Day of another cause we still support, a decade on – the project to restore Victoria Baths in South Manchester. This 2007 newsletter extract shows us singing on the pool sides, though since then we’ve taken to the acoustics of the pool-bottom itself, suitably drained!
In 2008 we said farewell to Carol Donaldson, and to Beth Allen, who for two years had been acting as Carol’s deputy. Here’s the programme of that farewell concert. We soon welcomed our new and current MD, Liz Powers, who led us through our customary autumn / winter seasonal concerts, which that year covered the Craft Centre, the Triangle Shopping Centre and Linton House.