Grief Chorus

“The right to sing is an absolute, regardless of how it sounds to the outside world. We sing because we must, we sing because it fills our lungs with nourishing air and lets our hearts soar with the notes we let out. We sing because it allows us to speak of love and loss, delight and desire all encoded in lyrics that let us pretend those feelings are not quite ours. In song, we can find shortcuts to ecstasy while performing the mundane duty of a daily shower or scrubbing down the kitchen after yet another meal. Best of all, we can sing together.”

From Wintering by Katherine May

Over eight weeks in the summer of 2022 and again at the start of 2024, we gathered with participants from Brent and further afield and asked the questions: how do we find joy in processing grief through sound and song? What are the musical elements of loss and grief?

Both rounds of the project explored the musical elements of how grief is expressed communally across different cultures and the participants, led by Theatre Director David Ashley alongside Dramatherapist Wabriya King, explored a range of vocal and breath exercises and learnt to sing together as a group to form a ‘Grief Chorus’. Through structured play and a framework of working from and responding to the body, they dug into how we respond to grief as humans, all while finding joy in singing together.

The project culminated in an informal sharing of a meal, conversation and performance for family and friends.

Grief Chorus was open to professional actors and singers and amateurs alike and was a space for people to come together regularly to sing without expectations or judgement.

Key to the project is the inclusion of people from all backgrounds, with the aim of creating work that is representative of all involved.

“I didn't anticipate the sense of safety and community, and was wildly overwhelmed by how close we became and 'held' throughout the whole experience - without focusing explicitly on grief.” Round II Participant
“This space was warm, gentle and kind. I felt so embraced where I was at, and could show up even when I felt vocally unfit.” Round II Participant
“It feels so healing to reconnect with strangers by singing & being creative together. ” Round II Participant
“I expected to sing and also I wanted to explore my own experience and feelings towards the pandemic as well as hear about other people’s. I expected to create an artistic project collaboratively and that is exactly what we did. The project met my expectations, but in an unexpected way. Due to the nature of working with non performers, we approached the subject of grief in lots of different ways and with a lot of joy, which was refreshing, it also felt like a really safe space where I could express myself.” Round I Participant

© Sarah Ainslie