Kendal Street Choirs Festival – singing workshops, Sunday July 2
May 2023

Author: David Burbidge

Those who have booked to join the Kendal Street Choirs Festival over the weekend of June 30 to July 2 can join the Sunday morning workshops at different venues across Kendal.

STREET CHOIRS WORKSHOPS – SUNDAY 09:30-10:45 and 11:15-12:30

1.Ali Burns – Singing By Heart

Ali Burns is a Scottish songwriter and arranger who loves to write for community choirs: songs with beautiful harmonies and simple, profound text that are easy enough to learn by ear but satisfying and special to sing. “Building a singing community is one of the most fulfilling and humbling parts of my life – a constant and powerful reminder that we need each other’s friendship and support to survive. I think of singing workshops as a harbour in a changing and troubled world and I love writing songs that reflect those concerns and move and ‘mend’ us in some way.” These workshops will feature songs about climate change and the challenges of moving from high to low carbon lifestyle.

2. Anna Tabbush  – Folk harmony, original compositions

Anna Tabbush has run community choirs and singing events in the Southeast for over 20 years. She has become well-known in the community choir world for her catchy, accessible compositions and arrangements including Harbour, a song she wrote in response to the Syrian refugee crisis which has been sung up and down the country and around the world in choirs, churches, schools and pub sessions. In this workshop Anna will be teaching some of her own compositions and arrangements by ear in luscious 3 and 4 part harmony. No previous musical experience required, just a love of singing in harmony!

3. Campaign Choirs – Annual meeting

Campaign Choirs Network Annual Gathering – Together we have a voice!

Given the political urgency of our times, the Campaign Choirs Network was formed in 2013 to share information about issues, events and actions. That urgency seems ever increasing. Through the Network, choirs share songs and campaigns and coordinate a collective presence at demonstrations and rallies. With 136 members from 61 street and community choirs, we organise through our email list, website and Facebook group. New and existing members are warmly invited to this annual meeting of the network where we will discuss future organisation and action, including the possibility of a radical choir gathering. Please contact Lotte Reimer directly to confirm your attendance.

If you can’t make the gathering, find out more and contact us at

4. David BurbidgeSinging Walk

Whether you’re a rambler from Manchester way, go with your comrades to sing on the top of mountains, or just like swinging along with a song on the open road, come and sing a few songs suitable for, and about the open fells on a short walk through Kendal. Some songs can help to keep your spirits up on long walks, and others celebrate the glory of the mountains and the natural environment. There will be one small hill to the castle in Kendal but it is not far. Comfortable outdoor footwear recommended.   

As well as having led community choirs and harmony singing workshops in South Lakeland for over 30 years, David has trained as a mountain leader – and leads groups on singing walks through the mountains which range from wheelchair-friendly rambles around Tarn Howes in the Lake District, to expeditions to the top of Slovenia’s highest mountain Triglav.

Every year he leads singers staying in an iconic and remote mountain bothy: the Black Sail Youth Hostel near Scafell, and the local community choirs he leads also join him on singing expeditions through the long summer evenings round lakes to sing by waterfalls or in vast Lakeland caverns.

“Sun warmed rock and the cold of Bleaklow’s frozen sea, the snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains; days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine, and you drink and your drink ‘till you’re drunk on the joy of living.” Ewan MacColl

5. Faith WatsonJazz harmony – “singing for the pure joy of it”

First workshop:

Short songs with something to say.

In this workshop, you will learn a couple of original songs with a message about the need for change, working together, the environment… the kinds of themes that many community choirs feel passionate about.

Second Workshop:

Old Cape Cod.

This song was written in 1957 (by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus and Allan Jeffrey) and sung by Patti Page. It was part of the soundtrack in the 1985 film “Desert Hearts”, one of the first films to present a positive portrayal of lesbian sexuality. It was being screened at a time when Clause 28 (prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’) was being debated in the UK, and filmgoers had to get past anti-gay protesters at cinemas. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28.

Faith has been leading singing workshops and groups for over 30 years. She also sells her songs and arrangements for choirs and singing groups via She’s a member of The Lovenotes acapella quartet, with Jules Gibb, Katherine Watson, and Rose Hodgson. In her workshops, Faith concentrates on the experience of singing together in the here and now, rather than on working towards performance. Whilst some of the songs can be challenging, and many are emotional, ultimately, Faith’s workshops are about singing for the pure joy of it.

6. Janet RusselSongs from the Fracking Sites

During the days of the rolling demonstrations at both Preston New Road in Lancashire and Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, Janet visited regularly as an individual and with groups of singers.   

Liverpool Socialist Choir also went to Preston New Road on several occasions, and came up with some great songs and parodies of songs.  I don’t think we are quite out of the danger zone yet with the fracking business, so these songs might still come in handy, but it is also easy to follow the pattern used for other things we might oppose – the arms trade, other fossil fuels, abusive conditions for workers, etc.  

Janet first made a name for herself on the folk circuit in the ‘80’s as a young singer songwriter writing with hard-edged humour about issues affecting women. 

Her “Secretary’s Song” was the most requested song on “Folk on 2” in 1987/8, and “Breastfeeding Baby in the Park” has been taken up by the pro-breastfeeding lobby nationally and internationally. 

Whilst bringing up two sons, living in Yorkshire, Janet became an established voice workshop and community choir leader, and a member of the Natural Voice Practitioners Network, established through Frankie Armstrong’s work.

This has led Janet to arrange some songs by favourite songwriters such as Leon Rosselson, Robb Johnson, and Sandra Kerr and partner Jim Woodland for performance by her three regular community choirs, as well as “borrowing” arrangements from Leon, Sandra, Jim Boyes, and other colleagues to enrich the community choir repertoire.

Some singers may also remember, or even have taken part in “The Christmas Truce”, “Hearts of Coal”, and “The Toilers’ Gift”, 3 productions organised in conjunction with Coope, Boyes, and Simpson (more than ten years ago now!), and the wonderful “Roses and Thorns” choir from both sides of the Lancashire/Yorkshire border.

7. Jilly Jarman – improvisation

Jilly runs Improv Choirs around the North and Scotland. These are for any singer of any level of confidence and experience and genre. A chance to build songs, grooves, vocal landscapes from scratch using imagination and friendliness. Hopefully its more fun than terrifying! Generally everyone is taken aback by the great stuff that is produced.Jilly is an improvising musician and composer who is founder and director of BlueJam Arts based in Penrith.

8. Lucky Moyo – Songs from Zimbabwe

Luky Moyo leads Uzambezi Arts –  – a U.K. based song and dance ensemble that specialises in songs and dances from Southern Africa. 

The group’s membership consists of artists that have toured well into 50 countries around the world playing before capacity audiences of 50 000. Some of the dignitaries they have played for include Nelson Mandela , and Queen Elizabeth II. TV appearances have varied from Blue Peter, The Andrew Marr Show to even Later with Jools Holland.

Doing education and outreach work in schools and educational centres and even in the criminal justice system and refugee communities are key and core to the groups work. In this workshop, Lucky will be teaching some of their songs from Zimbabwe.

9. Paul GuppyTYRANTS, KNAVES AND FREEDOM’S TRUMPET: Radical Hymns of the early 19th century.

Led by Paul Guppy, who has been active for over forty years in Lancaster’s musical life, as a musical instrument repairer and playing double bass/ tuba in jazz, folk, ska, and brass bands. For the past thirty years he has run THE GLADLY SOLEMN SOUND, a successful choir singing West Gallery Music. In 2019 they performed ‘UNITE AND BE FREE’, retelling the story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, using contemporaneous writings and music.

Published last year was Paul’s ‘BOUGHT BY TYRANTS, SOLD BY KNAVES, a collection of material from ‘The National Chartist Hymn Book’, one of many such books used by the Chartists – the working-class movement which strenuously demanded political and social reform in the mid-19th century.

10. Rebecca Denniff – Love Songs for Trees

Come and join Rebecca to sing some of her new songs for trees. From the watchful Oak to the tiny Bonsai the Tree Songs were born out of a longing to be ‘in the green’ during recent years when that was not permitted, and are filled with uplifting and powerful harmonies and a sense of timeless solidarity with the natural world that nurtures and sustains us.

Rebecca Denniff is a folk singer, composer, choir wrangler and song collector based in the wilds of the North York Moors National Park.She runs a Flash Company Arts CIC in Whitby, building community through the arts and seemingly feeding the world with surplus food, and leads several choirs on a weekly basis, as well as running bespoke workshops for harmony singers regionally and nationally and developing songwriting projects with her creative partner David Owen.

Using her experience of working with a broad range of musical traditions she creates repertoire that enriches the musical experiences of her participants, in turn extending their cultural awareness and musical appreciation.

11.Rose Hodgson

Rhythm and Harmony with Rose

Rose Hodgson is musical director of Manchester Community Choir and other singing groups around Greater Manchester. She also sings with the acclaimed five piece acapella group The Lovenotes (see photo), where her love of intricate acapella harmonies and rhythms really takes off. In this workshop we will dive into some gorgeous harmonies in a variety of styles, all driven by foot-tapping, interweaving rhythms. A great way to wake up the body and voice!

12.Tadhamon Singers  –  Stand With Palestine 

Join Tadhamon Singers for this interactive workshop and presentation of their solidarity tour of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Nazareth in the autumn of 2022, sharing songs, stories and images from their trip. Led by Janet Wood and members of Tadhamon Singers.

13.Tony Bennett – Tai Chi

The main purpose of the workshop will be to give attendees a taste of the main principles of Tai Chi Qigong and how its practice will benefit their interest in singing.

The workshop will initially focus on posture, alignment, breath and movement, appreciating the significance of relaxed joints. The interests and experience of those who attend will inform the content of the rest of the workshop.

Tony Bennett is a registered instructor with the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain and has a Diploma in Stress Management Training.  He has been teaching, initially through Adult Learning for North Yorkshire County Council, and then privately, for over 20 years. His emphasis is on the key elements of Qigong: relating breath to movement, meditatively. He teaches the Chen Man Ching Form, along with a number of other sets including Five Animal Frolics, Five Elements Qigong, Eight Brocades, Kai Men and Dragon and Tiger Qigong.

The main purpose in Tony’s teaching is to introduce people to the benefits of deep relaxation and the management of energy through breath and considered movement and stillness.  His approach is to empower people, encouraging them to adopt new ways of thinking and living their lives as they put this learning into practice. 

14.Yannick Minvielle-Debat – Call and response songs from Brittany for dancing

Yannick will teach some easy but highly enjoyable and mesmerising traditional call and response songs from Brittany. The language is French but the repetitive nature of the verses makes it accessible to non-French speakers.

As the songs are for dancing, she will also introduce the singers to the steps of the simple accompanying circle dances so they can experience the magic of singing for dancing.

This Breton songs workshop is guaranteed to be a rewarding experience.

(Please note that there will be no pressure to join in the dancing, but singing is essential!)

Yannick’s involvement in traditional French and Breton music ranges from singing for dancing in a band, The Wizards of Noz, and in a duo with an accordionist, organising an annual French music festival in Todmorden, teaching Breton call and response songs to running dance workshops for all abilities and ages. She especially enjoys teaching children in primary schools all around the country. Born in France, Yannick now lives in Morecambe

Workshop venues, and busking sites


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