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March 11, 2015

They want to teach the world to sing

The Telegraph (UK):

A short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral lies St Anne and St Agnes church. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it is a cavernous place with a hint of history in the air; it is here that the great poet John Milton used to pray.

In 2013, its worshippers left to join another congregation, and the church was falling on hard times. But new life now courses through its pews. Walk past at any time of day, and you are likely to hear soaring choral music echoing from inside. And it’s singing with a difference.

The church, renamed the Gresham Centre, has been taken over by the vocal ensemble Voces8, and repurposed as an “international centre for vocal excellence and outreach”.

“It is being renovated and upgraded, and when it is finished it will be glorious,” says baritone Paul Smith, 32, one of the founders of the Voces8 group. “But we’re not waiting for that. It is already open as a rehearsal and recital venue, and we are already running workshops pretty much every day.”

This is characteristic of the unusual energy and commitment that underpins Voces8. The group is a multi-award-winning classical singing ensemble in its own right. It has recently signed a deal with the Decca Classics label and released its first album, Eventide.

But the singers’ own careers are only one aspect of the Voces8 project. “We really believe in the power that music has to benefit people’s lives,” says Andrea Haines, 27, one of the group’s two sopranos.

“The group is run by a charity that we set up in 2006, and our main goal is to bring the joy of singing to as many people as possible. Voces8 is just the flagship ensemble, the figurehead.”

The church has now become the hub of a musical outreach project that reaches more than 20,000 people around the world each year.

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Posted by acapnews at March 11, 2015 12:00 AM