Mass choir’s songs of peace for Ukraine

The choir in Lewes town hall.
The Big Sing for Ukraine Photo credit: John Warburton @Warblefly. 

Over a hundred singers from across Sussex and as far afield as Portsmouth and London, took part in the Big Sing for Ukraine in Lewes town hall the Sunday before last. Organised by members of the East Sussex Bach Choir and their director, John Hancorn, it was an uplifting event in which I was lucky enough to take part.

During rehearsals, music specialist Richard Wigmore explained the history and meaning of each piece.

Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace was dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis in 1998 and includes texts from the Bible and the Indian Mahābhārata, as well as the Islamic call to prayer.

Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, an oratorio inspired by events in 1938 which led to Kristallnacht, deals with the experiences of oppressed people and contains five deeply moving African-American spirituals.

Both these works are anti-war pieces which end with hopes for peace and reconciliation, particularly appropriate in an event for Ukraine. The repertoire also included Fauré’s Requiem.

The most moving part of the evening came when a young Ukrainian woman led Ukrainian refugee families based in Lewes in singing their national anthem, Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy, which translates into English as ‘Ukraine has not yet perished’. Everyone in the town hall spontaneously rose to their feet and shared in this heartfelt plea with their applause.

Poster. Photo credit: Lewes Town Council

The impressive impromptu choir, accompanied by pianist Nick Houghton, was joined by celebrated soloists from Lewes and East Sussex. The virtuoso quartet consisted of bass Sir John Tomlinson, whose delivery of Deep River resonated through the hall; tenor, Paul Austin Kelly; mezzo Pippa Dames-Longworth and soprano Sofia Ticciati. It was a real privilege to perform alongside such wonderful singers and there were many points of high emotion during the performance.

A collection was taken for local charity Lewes Helps Ukraine and the Red Cross. If you were unable to come & would still like to donate to Lewes for Ukraine, please do so at:

Lewes resident and renowned bass Sir John Tomlinson. Photo credit: East Sussex Bach Choir.

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