The Hackney Singers

The “Hackney Choral Society” was formed as an evening class in singing in 1973 as part of the Hackney Institute Adult Education programme. The choir was renamed “The Hackney Singers” in 1979 and it became independent in 1982, growing from strength to strength under the leadership of Lilian Wilson and later Bill Lloyd to become a mixed-voice choir of over 100, registering as a charity in 1986. 

We present at least three concerts a year, working with professional orchestras and soloists and we've had the privilege of taking part in many other events around London. Along with five other choirs from across London, over 80 members of Hackney Singers participated in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, performing a specially commissioned piece Principia and Britten’s setting of the National Anthem.

Hackney Singers rehearsing for the paralympic opening ceremony

In 2013 the choir celebrated its 40th anniversary, with a 1970's themed party during which we previewed a specially-commissioned short film about the choir. During this year we also debuted in the film business, singing on the soundtrack of a Hackney-produced film The Christmas Candle starring Susan Boyle and Samantha Barks. In late 2014 choir members performed at the inaugural BBC Music Awards at Earls Court, singing “God Only Knows” with Sir Tom Jones and Hackney’s Paloma Faith.

We are based in Hackney, but our members come not only from Hackney, but also surrounding boroughs and even Croydon, Enfield and further afield.

We are different from many other singing groups. We have an open-door policy and do not hold auditions — everybody, regardless of experience, is welcome to join the Thursday night rehearsals.
We rehearse every Thursday evening during school term time at St Luke’s church, just off Morning Lane (for autumn term 2019 we are at Lauriston School). Rehearsals start at 7:30pm. We normally start with a brief warm-up session. We have a short break for tea, coffee and biscuits around 8:30pm and finish at 9:30pm. Some members of the choir have got into the habit of moving on to one of the local pubs – they’re quite a sociable lot. 


From our members...

“I would always encourage anyone who wants to join a choir, and is a little apprehensive, to go ahead. I joined Hackney Singers in 1986 and was very nervous as I had never sung in a choir before, except for school. I certainly had never sung anything like Handel’s Messiah, which was my first challenge,but although I didn’t read music well at all my ear took over. I am so glad that I did join and have looked forward every week to rehearsals. In those days we were a much smaller group but look how we have grown and become popular. I am very proud to still belong to Hackney Singers. Singing is definitely good for the soul!”

Natalie, Soprano

“Although there are quite a lot of non-auditioning choirs, what I think is quite unusual about HS is the ambitious repertoire the music team selects for us. There’s no dumbing down, and the assumption is that anyone can get to grips with good music. I’ve certainly been exposed to a huge range of music I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise – and that includes pieces I didn’t like on first listen, but persevered with and came to enjoy (Mass in Blue for instance). It’s also important to me that the choir does feel properly local. It’s hard to put your finger on but it does have a Hackney vibe. It may not precisely mirror the demographics of the entire borough, but I certainly meet people I wouldn’t come across anywhere else.”

Alice, Soprano

“Something I think is different about Hackney Singers is our performance skills that Mark and the music team has developed; no frilly white shirts and no whining diphthongs (we hope!). We can get to a pitch where we give truly exciting and moving performances.”

Judy , Tenor

“Hackney Singers started off in 1973 as an Evening Class and perhaps that is the key to its ethos. Anyone who wanted sing could sign up without the worry of an audition.Our Music Team continually select an ambitious repertoire for us and although occasionally some members don’t take to pieces on first listening, by the time the concert comes around they have grown to enjoy it. Mark Shanahan who has been our Musical Director for 15 years has developed the choir’s performance skills all without ceremony, due to the challenge of the music, the dedication or our Music Team and the enthusiasm and staying power of our members. The choir is committed to rehearsing and performing in Hackney. In addition to concerts this has led us to representing the borough in the Paralympics and this year working with a Hackney based film company on a feature production. Our annual Christmas concert raises funds for the Hackney Night Shelters. “

Gill, Soprano

Our music team

Our rehearsals are stimulating and illuminating as well as being extremely enjoyable. Our music director Dan Ludford-Thomas leads our rehearsals and accomplished organist Andrew Storey assists. The choir’s appreciation of the high quality of our musical direction has been proved by the excellent and enthusiastic attendance at rehearsals.

The Hackney Singers rehearsals are simultaneously entertaining, relaxing and challenging. Andrew and Dan leave us in no doubt that we must continue to work hard and improve ourselves but, more often than not, they manage to do that by making us laugh – lots.

Dan Ludford-Thomas, musical director

DAN LUDFORD-THOMAS began singing as a chorister at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, and in 1986 became ‘Choirboy of the Year’ which led to radio and television broadcasts, and concerts at many of the major venues throughout the UK. Dan won choral scholarships to Wells Cathedral and Durham Cathedral where he read music at the University. On arrival in London he continued his vocal studies with Richard Smart and Nicholas Powell and conducting with Rumon Gamba and Mark Shanahan.

As a tenor, Dan has performed regularly with many major ensembles, including Chapelle du Roi, The Kings Consort, The Academy of Ancient Music, Florilegium, and The Sixteen and has sung with many choral societies as a soloist.

As a conductor Dan, performs regularly in major concert venues including Birmingham Symphony Hall and The Royal Albert Hall. In 2012 he conducted over 300 singers and the Forest Philharmonic in a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Royal Festival Hall. In 2014 he conducted over 200 singers in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in the Fairfield Halls returning with the same forces to put on Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 2016.

In 2012 Dan worked as a choirmaster on BBC2’s The Choir: Sing While You Work series and has continued as Artistic Director of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir. He returned in 2013 to work on BBC2’s The Choir: Sing While You Work series 2 as choirmaster to Citibank choir with whom he has continued as the musical director and in 2015 worked behind the scenes as choirmaster for The Choir: Gareth Malone’s Great Choir Reunion. Work with these choirs has led to performances at the Hammersmith Apollo and concerts in New York. In 2015 Dan enjoyed success as the co-producer and musical director of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir’s Christmas Number 1 ‘Bridge Over You’:

Dan was the Chorus Master for the Choir of the Enlightenment, preparing them to sing Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Marin Alsop at the 2013 BBC Proms. He returned as Chorus Master for Marin, preparing the Choir of the Enlightenment to perform Brahms Alto Rhapsody and Triumphlied at the 2015 BBC Proms.

Dan is currently Head of Vocal Studies at Dulwich College, conductor of the Senior Choir of the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain, Musical Director of Concordia Chamber Choir, Director of Music of Lewisham Choral Society and Musical Director of The Hackney Singers.

Andrew Storey, assistant musical director

ANDREW STOREY was organ scholar at Blackpool Grammar School and went on to read a degree in Music and Mathematics. Whilst undertaking his PGCE at Christ Church College, Canterbury he was appointed their first organ scholar and studied with David Flood. He is currently the Director of Music for Faversham Choral Society, Director of Music for the Ashtead Singers, Assistant Director of Music for the Hackney Singers and organist at The Church of the Holy Innocents in South Norwood.

Andrew has worked with the Hackney Singers since 1992, recently and has worked a variety of repertoire including Messiah (Handel) in the Festival Hall, Gloria (Rutter) with Onyx Brass, Organ Concerto (Poulenc), Creation (Haydn), Gloria (Poulenc), Petite Messe Sollenelle (Rossini) and Carmena Burana (Orff). He has played the organ for Ashtead Choral Society on tours to Prague, Florence, Pisa, Salzburg, Verona and conducted them on their most recent tour to Luxembourg. Recently with Faversham Choral Andrew has conducted Creation (Haydn), A Ceremony of Carols (Britten), Requiem (Cherubini and Faure), Little Organ Mass (Haydn) and Messe de Minuet (Charpentier).

For over a decade Andrew has conducted the Ashtead Singers, a Surrey-based chamber choir, in concert and in liturgical services in a variety of cathedrals including Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St Albans, Brussels, Southwark and most recently on a highly successful tour to Christ Church cathedral Dublin.

Andrew works at Dulwich College as Director of IT and enjoys assisting in the music department, especially singing in the Chapel Choir and conducting senior school musicals such as Guys and dolls, Kiss me Kate and Grease!. Just to keep himself busy he is also an Independent Schools’ Inspector, and as part of job works closely with local schools as part of the Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership. In 2012, Andrew was delighted to be invited to be on the panel for the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ post-graduate performance bursary at the Royal College of Music. He has also conducted the festival evensong for the Lord Mayor of London.


Our patron

The choir thanks Philip Glanville, mayor of Hackney, for his continued support of the Hackney Singers. 


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