I have been documenting behind the scenes with The London Lucumi Choir since I joined the choir in 2007.
Like most choirs in the UK our activity has been severely affected by the the Coronavirus pandemic and we have had to adjust in order to keep going and sing. Initially this meant regular Zoom rehearsals exclusively which had its pros and cons. On the one hand it was wonderful to see other peoples faces – some choir members who now live abroad or can’t travel to regular rehearsals were able to join. I could sing at the the top of my voice from the comfort of my bedroom which felt very cathartic. Yet a Zoom meeting is no substitute for the real thing; for example there is a time delay which conflicts with our intricate rhythms. The solution is to sing on your own while everyone else is muted. There is no accompanying percussion. I increasingly get ‘zoom fatigue’ and end up having to shut my eyes after a while. Indeed, it’s not for everyone; my son – another longterm choir member – only likes the live experience. Yet for me, despite the drawbacks it was still important and rewarding to participate in the regular Zoom meetings which are still, as I write, ongoing.
Here are some images from our first Zoom meetings back in March 2020:
One of the creative ventures we achieved during lockdown was a video of the Cuban lullaby Oguere. We individually recorded our parts and harmonies in our homes. The dress code was white and red. My son Dan also participated and borrowed a T shirt and hat for the occasion, here he is on my balcony:
In late June the lockdown was beginning to ease, and Daniela invited me to sing in her garden for a lockdown music live session, as part of the Highgate Festival organised by Village Raw, the independent culture magazine covering Muswell Hill, Crouch End and East Finchley areas. Daniela was interviewed and we sang a couple of songs together, all of which was live-streamed in Instagram. I really enjoyed this – it was a beautiful day and it was great to sing together with Daniela in person. Here’s a portrait of Daniela from before the session:
And a screenshot from the stream – our interviewers on the top. Below, Daniela in the foreground and that’s me in the pink T shirt:
During the summer we participated in an an exciting and challenging creative project. This was an experimental sound installation entitled A Proposal For Radical Hospitality for Queen’s House in Greenwich created by Peter Adjaye and Randolph Mathews. The work is a response to the Armada Portraits and traces the paintings’ legacies of empire and the roots of the transatlantic slave trade. In late July a small group of six of us met up in Daniela’s conservatory and garden. We interacted via Zoom with the musicians at The Queens House and with other choir members. The installation can still be heard in the Armada Portraits Room at Queen’s House – I visited the museum a couple of days ago.
Below, Leah and Anne-Marie:
Still Life. On the left, text of Peter Adjaye’s anthem, a part of the improvised soundscape, and a maraca shaker. On the right, laptop with various contributors – including choir member Izzy Dabiri:
Daniela liaises with the other choir members and Queens House musicians:
A small group sings in the garden:
As part of a series of events we prerecorded a video for International Slavery Remembrance Day which was organised by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The concert, entitled Songs of Fire and Water was streamed online as well as at the museum itself. Below, a few photographs taken during a break from recording. It was a boiling hot day in August and the hand fans were not just props, they were a necessity!
Jennyfer and Jimena:
Sonia and Jennyfer:
As a community choir, director Daniela is very supportive of local causes such as the Save Our Oaks campaign in Muswell Hill’s Queens Wood. This is an initiative to prevent deforestation and protect mature oak trees from felling due to insurance claims:
In August a few member of the choir got together to sing alongside the community tree protectors, who had set up a little camp in the woods. This was the first time in months that we had sung with our full percussion section of three bata drummers, and it felt amazing:
Lee, Bill and Patrick setting up in the woods:
Performing in the woods, smiles and clapping all around:
Sonia at the Tube station:
Over the summer we continued having our regular Zoom rehearsals and small outdoor socially-distanced rehearsals limited to groups of six. Here is Liz at a Sunday rehearsal:
However last Sunday – a dry October day – we had our first full rehearsal in months, complete with our percussionists. It took place in a large open space in Queen’s Wood in Muswell Hill. I felt incredibly happy to sing with the choir and the percussionists in the open air. Here are some pictures from the rehearsal:
Patrick’s bata drum:
Lee and Bill on percussion:
Prayer intro lead by Daniela:
London Lucumi Choir website https://londonlucumichoir.com
Video of Oguere https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR0m8WO35CU produced by Daniela de Armas, Visual edit Leonardo Durrant
Royal Greenwich Museums International Slavery Remembrance Day with choir performance https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/international-slavery-remembrance-day
Sound installation at The Queen’s House https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/we-recommend/attractions/a-proposal-for-radical-hospitality
Village Raw https://www.villageraw.com
#SaveQueensWoodOaks campaign https://twitter.com/SHIFT_Haringey
My Portfolio Project Behind The Scenes with The London Lucumi Choir https://www.mishaminoff.com/portfolio/behind-the-scenes-with-the-london-lucumi-choir-portfolio/
Also published on Medium.