Stop & Sing at St. Pancras International

Why we turned this piano...


Into THIS piano

The people of the United Kingdom awoke on Friday (that’s if they had managed to sleep at all) to what quite frankly now feels like a broken Kingdom. With shock, sadness, bitterness, blame, accusations, disbelief and even hatred flying around everywhere, it was impossible to escape the sunken feeling that had engulfed London. I’m not going to launch into an in-depth explanation of my political views as that is not the point of this blog. However, it is fair to say that come Friday morning I, along with most of the people I know, was feeling absolutely sick to my stomach.

Not quite knowing what to do with myself, I was scanning through the millions of social media posts on the subject when I came across one that a member of my choir, Real Voices, had posted in our Facebook group. 

“Actually cried at the result over breakfast. Can we have an impromptu rehearsal to cheer me up?” 

Another choir member had replied to this - “Music might be the only way to get through today me thinks”.

It struck me that she was absolutely right, music was the only way to get through a day like this. There is endless research out there about the many psychological benefits of music, but as musicians we experience this first hand all the time. For me personally, as much as I enjoy taking my frustration out on a poor piano, nothing beats the feeling of singing your heart out with a group of people and being immersed in the sound sound created by passionate voices singing together. 

We needed to do something to make ourselves and other people feel better. Sometimes you can’t control what is going on around you, but you can control how you react to it. And to me this felt more pertinent than ever. As did the fact that right now we need to stick together, and to me, making music is the ultimate group experience. 

As a choir, we had been toying with the idea recently of heading to one of the public pianos at St Pancras station at some point in late-July to do a performance for fun and to get our name out there a bit. I put some feelers out to see who might be up for it at a few hours notice, not to perform our choir stuff, but just to sing everything and anything that we wanted to. It felt perfect as one of the pianos is right outside the Eurostar - the gateway to Europe. Within minutes a few singers had responded saying they would be there, so we decide to go for it and spread the word - Let’s do something positive to spread some love and joy during an otherwise pretty awful time.

It was a case of turning up and seeing who could make it. About 7 members of Real Voices were able to get themselves there, and a great friend and colleague of mine had help get the word out so we were joined by a few of his choir members. One of my best friends from school came to support, so we were ready to go.

Within minutes of starting singing we were joined by people around us. People couldn’t resist joining in, and even those who didn’t want to sing came and stood close by to soak up the atmosphere. We just took requests from the general public, and googled the lyrics on our phones (thank you, technology!). And quite frankly, it felt amazing. We were there for about an hour, putting smiles on people’s otherwise serious faces. People who normally stand in stations and avoid eye contact with each other were communicating, speaking to each other, singing and laughing. People from all over Europe and the world. That’s what music has the power to do. It breaks down barriers that shouldn’t be there in the first place. This quote feels incredibly relevant at the moment. “Without music, life would be a mistake” - Friedrich Nietzsche. He also said “Music unites all qualities: it can exalt us, divert us, cheer us up”. That it certainly can.

I would encourage everyone to take to the streets and make music. It is liberating and feels seriously good. Thanks to my friends for being encouraging because without them it would have been me and a piano. “We have far more in common than that which divides us” and music is one of those things. Let’s stick together, people.

Here is what a few people had to say about what it meant to them.

Thank you so much for turning a dark day into moments that reaffirmed my faith in humanity.
— Member of general public
Singing with you all soothed my broken heart. Seeing smiles on strangers passing by and joining felt special, like we were healing each other with music and bringing us closer after a very sad day.
— Lilibeth
After a day of so much turmoil and division, it was a really wonderful feeling to put our differences for a moment and come together in song. I think everyone left feeling cheered and hopeful.
— Pamela
Thursday’s events rocked our world - it is no exaggeration to say we were devastated. Personally, I felt like I had been through a breakup. Within moments our spirits were lifted, a crowd gathered, and we could see in commuters faced we’d lifted them too. Music is powerful. We will emerge from the darkness a stronger, unified people - there will be bumps along the way - and if we keep on singing, as we chose to on Friday, together we will overcome all.
— Fiona
Friday’s #StopAndSing provided a glorious 45 mins of escapism from a hugely difficult day. A chance to be completely absorbed by the positive and inclusive vibes that sharing good music with strangers can offer. It was soothing for the soul.
— Amy


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