Rock Choir founder Caroline Redman Lusher celebrates 10 years of the choir in Cambridgeshire
Rock Choir, the largest contemporary choir in the UK with 400 locations, is celebrating its 10th birthday in Cambridgeshire with a session led by creator and founder Caroline Redman Lusher in St Neots later this month.
Caroline will be coming to the area to take the very first session back to term on Wednesday, April 27, in St Neots at the United Reformed Church, and anyone is welcome to go along.
“Rock Choir as a whole is actually 17 years old,” explains Caroline, “and we started in Farnham [in Surrey]. There was organic growth across the country and after seven years, we then came to Cambridge.
“And next year, December 2023, we will be inviting the entire membership to travel to the NEC Arena in Birmingham to celebrate 18 years of Rock Choir – so the Cambridgeshire rockies I’m sure will be enjoying the coach journey and coming up to sing with everyone. It’s a very sociable group in Cambridgeshire...”
A singer and musician, Caroline built the choir up from 100 people in Surrey to 33,000 across the UK. She has been getting out and visiting the choirs since restrictions have been lifted and has found it a really exciting time.
Caroline, who has regularly appeared on national TV and radio, is known for having a warm, inspirational approach that has captured imaginations and encouraged the nation to sing. Did she ever think when she started Rock Choir that it would go on to become such a success?
“Oh no, not at all,” she says, “the original reason for starting it in my own community was because I’d seen the difference it has made to my A-level students, because I’d been a professional performer in London and then I went into teaching...
“I was teaching A-level performing arts and my students, who couldn’t read music, were very good at dance and drama but were nervous about music. I had to get them through that A-level and I grouped them round the piano and I wrote down pop songs that they really enjoyed, that were in the charts, and I taught it. I found a common ground with them.
“Then I put them in front of their peers and in challenging situations to perform to build their confidence and we got them through their A-level, and what I found with those students from my staff friends at the college was that their grades started to go up.
“The parents would say to me, ‘My daughter is much happier, she’s more confident, she’s communicating with us, something is happening to her – it’s having a positive effect on her’. This was back in 2003 and I wasn’t sure what it was I was doing; I didn’t know the scientific side of singing and what was happening in the brain.
“But I knew that I also was on a high and I loved teaching that Wednesday afternoon choir, so I ended up putting a poster in my local coffee shop in Farnham saying, ‘No auditions, no need to read music’. All the aspects that I had experienced with the students I brought into the community.”
From those humble beginnings, Rock Choir has gone on to perform at top national events and even record at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios. It also raises a huge amount of money for charity each year.
“They leave the choir on a high,” says Caroline of its members. “They’re engaging with music, which we all know is the natural drug to create joy and happiness, and the friendships and support they get from the choir is a huge part of their experience. And then I put them in front of audiences. We are on TV and we go off and we do all these different events so that their confidence builds.”
The friendly founder, who left teaching in 2005 to focus on Rock Choir full time, adds: “I’d never planned for it to be big... I wouldn’t ever have suggested I was a businesswoman or understood about that aspect of things, but every decision I made was for the good of the membership.”
For her efforts, Caroline was given a Gold Badge Award by PRS for Music a few years ago. “It was recognising my input into the music industry,” she explains, “because all of these songs that I bring back into Rock Choir we’re breathing life into again.
“We’re introducing a song that might have been in the 1970s that people might have forgotten about and we’re deconstructing it and reconstructing it in terms of harmonies to work for Rock Choir and then they go off and they download the original. Listening to the original they’re reliving their youth again.”
She notes that the choir also introduces young people to artists they had not previously heard of, such as one youngster she met who had never heard of Phil Collins. He then went home, mentioned him to his parents who revealed they had his vinyl records in the loft.
“Really great stories like that are happening all the time,” says Caroline, “and also some members will write to me and say, ‘I never liked that song when it came out but now I understand it and I’m singing it and I’m reading the lyrics and I’m doing it with my friends and it’s slightly different.’
“We don’t change the fundamental song itself but we make it our own. Rock Choir can live forever because of the songs.”
In Cambridgeshire, there are regular Rock Choir sessions in Cambridge, St Neots and Huntingdon. The Cambridge group meets at Queen Edith Chapel. Caroline Redman Lusher will be leading a Rock Choir session from 7.30-9pm at St Neots United Reformed Church, High Street, St Neots, on Wednesday, April 27.