Greenwich based refugee choir records five track EP about lockdown and regeneration

By Davina Hyde

A Greenwich-based refugee choir are releasing their first ever professionally recorded work for Refugee Week.

The five-track EP was planned and recorded by the Citizens of the World choir during the winter lockdown using Zoom and WhatApp voice notes.

The record is structured in five movements, starting with a response to the long cold winter titled Vanhu (People, Places).

It then moves on to Hiraeth (Beyond the Oceans), the meditative and melodic Crazy World and Musica Incipit and on to the final piece, Spring which is a lyrical, optimistic ballad of regeneration and reconciliation.

Composer Tom Donald said: “The ancient Greek meaning of symphony meant the bringing together of voices. By layering stories, pulses, strings, synths and pianos, and by replacing the traditional recording studio with the mobile phone, this third lockdown allowed a new modern day symphony to emerge.

“These were so much more than digital recording sessions, they were a coming together of our community and became our document of these strange and revealing times.”


Composer Tom Donald

Lead vocals on the track “Spring” were recorded by singer-songwriter Bumi Thomas.

Ms Thomas was born in Glasgow but previously threatened with deportation by the Home Office under the British Nationality Act which had removed her automatic citizenship.

She joined the choir in the middle of her legal battle with the Home Office, and was fortunately successful in her application to resist deportation.

She said: “It was great to hear all the different fragments come together so beautifully. Since Covid changed the world we have had to adapt and find digital solutions to stay connected.

“This EP is a great testament to the resilient beauty of our bond as a choir and I am so proud to be a part of this journey.”

Ms Thomas is not the only person for whom the choir has given joy.

Performer Nawroz Oramari  said: “The choir has changed my life for the better. I am so delighted to have the opportunity to sing Kurdish vocals for everyone to enjoy.”

The Citizens of the World Choir has 50 members from 30 different nationalities.

The award-nominated choir celebrates the creativity of people seeking sanctuary and asylum.It has performed at the Houses of Parliament, Shakespeare’s Globe, St Paul’s Cathedral and at festivals across the country.

During lockdown the choir received support from the Arts Council, the National Lottery and a successful crowdfunding campaign to create the EP, which was released exclusively on Bandcamp on June 18, as part of Refugee Week 2021.

Refugee Week took place from June 14 to June 20, and is an annual UK-wide festival, celebrating the contributions of refugees, providing a platform for the voices and creative work of people who have sought safety.

Recorded with renowned composer Tom Donald, the EP entitled Symphony of Voices takes inspiration from composers like Gorecki and Mahler, as well as Kurdish, Arabic, African, European and Celtic musical traditions.

Pictured top: Bumi Thomas (Credit Rachel Otterway)



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