On 22 May 2018 at 2.30 pm, Manchester fell silent to remember the 22 victims of last year’s tragic Manchester Arena terror attack. Later that evening in Albert Square, in front of Manchester’s Town Hall, 15,000 people gathered from all over the world to sing songs in a show of strength and solidarity.
Leading the Manchester One Voice concert in song during the event were Manchester Survivors Choir, along with a choir of 2000 singers from across the city, including Claire Pilling, BIMM Manchester’s very own choir leader. “The atmosphere was absolutely electric, I cannot express my gratitude to the students and our Head of Vocals Sue Quinn for support, efforts and the camaraderie by joining the mass choral event,” she told BIMM.
Claire was joined by ten members of the BIMM Manchester Choir, students and graduates, who lent their voices to heartfelt renditions of Oasis, Elbow, Ariana Grande and Take That. They included BIMM alumna Nicola Tuffy, who spoke of One Love being a powerful moment. “It was absolutely fantastic. I had no idea how intense it would feel for all of us to stand together and sing as one against terrorism and violence and to celebrate love. It was an experience I don’t think you can understand unless you were there,” she explained.
Reflecting on his experience of One Voice, choir member, Damon O’Hara said: “We were greeted with smiles and laughter which relaxed us. As we walked the short distance to Albert Square we were greeted with thousands of people clapping for us. As the evening progressed, we were all overwhelmed with many emotions. We are truly honoured to be invited to sing with everyone. This is something I will never forget as long as I live.”
The event, which was broadcast to an audience of millions, was well attended by reporters and broadcasters from around the world, but the poignancy of the event overshadowed any stage fright, explains choir member, Stacy Southward. Her thoughts: “We didn’t feel nervous about maybe being shown on national TV as there were so many people singing with us and it was an honour to be part of the mass choir.”
As her fellow choir member Anamelia Kuliga explains: “To be a part of such event really makes you realise how great Manchester is. I’m grateful to have been selected for the choir and for the fact we were representing BIMM, but most of all for the strength, support and unity that everyone gave each other.” One Voice was also a moving experience for Millie England, who performed with the choir for the second time at the recent Manchester concert.
Since forming in 2014, the BIMM Manchester choir has been a great success and this week’s One Voice concert has been one of many amazing opportunities, although admittedly few have matched up in terms of importance. Nevertheless, the BIMM Manchester choir are getting ready to embark on a tour with famed Manchester band The Membranes, led by Louder Than War editor John Robb, following appearances on Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music Show, Home MCR and a slot at Cadogan Hall supporting The Wedding Present.
Claire revealed: “I heard via social media that John Robb needed a choir for his new album Dark Matter, so I contacted him. I approached suitable Manchester students that needed extra performance experience and skills as part of their undergraduate study.” This led to the choir recording with The Membranes at Distant City Studios. Now comes the tour, which will see the group play at a string of great festivals, including Blue Dot, Bearded Theory and Castlefield Bowl to support the Levellers on 4 July.
Speaking ahead of the shows and her involvement with the choir, Anamelia, added: “I can safely say that for the past year we have all bonded over music and gained some real-life industry experience. Everyone in the choir supports one another in our personal journeys as well and we’re all just a bunch of crazy musicians. It’s been such a fun ride so far and I will sustain as part of the team as long as I can.”
Here at BIMM Manchester, we have been incredibly touched and inspired by the outpouring of support from everyone, including our own students, and continue to play our role as a key component of this fantastic and resilient city. One thing is for sure, the One Voice concert will be a memory that will live with our choir forever and we as an institution are so proud to have been part of such a heartfelt tribute.