North Camden Chorus

The NORTH CAMDEN CHORUS is an amateur choir in the true sense: we sing for pleasure. We have rehearsals on Tuesday at 7.30pm during two or three terms each year.

Membership of the choir is open to anyone with or without choral experience. We aim for high standards, and of course strong singers are always valued — but you don't have to be able to read music, and there are no auditions (if you're not sure whether you are a soprano or alto, just ask our director to make the call). Students are particularly welcome.

We are in our summer break. When we start again in September, we will be recruiting new singers. To get on the mailing list for the autumn and future terms, contact us.

Our choir is friendly. Our musical director is Ian Gibson. One of our mottos is If you can make your mistakes loud enough, you'll get better...

We learn each piece of music thoroughly. Sectional rehearsals (you never have to sing on your own) help you to learn the music one part at a time; then we come together as a full choir to put it together.

We sing a rather eclectic mix of classical music — as you might see from a list of past Concerts. We do a short summer season of less-classical pieces.

Where do we meet and how to get there?

We're based in North London. We meet at William Ellis School, which is on Highgate Road, London NW5 1RN (click for map), between Kentish Town and Highgate (Tufnell Park is the nearest tube).

For public transport ask the wonderful Transport for London Journey Planner. You can get a route from your starting postcode to the school, right here; just type your postcode and hit RETURN:

Or get a map from google. On foot or by car, come in through the school entrance opposite Croftdown Road. Follow the drive up until the school main entrance is on your right. Go in, turn right and immediately up the stairs. On the first floor you'll find the school hall in front of you, and that's where we'll meet.

If you come by car there is parking in front of the school and by turning right from the entrance drive, just before the school buildings. There's also parking available on Croftdown Road (opposite) and other local roads.

After rehearsals a group of singers meet at the Dartmouth Arms pub along the road, and all singers are welcome to join them.

We're grateful that William Ellis are so helpful to a community (rather than a school) organisation.

Autumn 2014

Our term will start on Tuesday 9th September 2014 at 7pm (earlier than usual, gives us time to sign up members), then at 7.30pm every Tuesday until 2nd December except for 28th October (half-term).

The fee for the whole term is £40 — it's free for full-time students.

We'll be learning Puccini's Messe di Gloria. Probably we'll add some Christmas music too.


Will be at 7.30pm on Saturday 6th December at St Mary Brookfield, Laurier Road, London NW5 1SL.

How to join

Turn up to the first rehearsal as above.

There is a per-term subscription: for 2014's autumn term it will be £40 (but we're free to full-time students). Please bring cash or your cheque payable to North Camden Chorus.

We accept members first-come first-served as they register in person, and we'll stop when we get to our limit (for this term we'll sign up no more than 160 members).

If you have sung with us in any of the three terms since September 2013 and for any reason can't make the first rehearsal, we will hold a place until the second or third week — but only if you contact us in advance and tell us when you will start. Deadlines: if you have some predictable problem (like a holiday) please let us know at the latest by the end of Thursday 4th September; if something unexpected causes you to miss the first rehearsal, let us know by the end of Thursday 11th September.

A new singer can attend the first rehearsal on a trial basis: ask the people at the desk. You will have to join (and pay) at the second rehearsal to keep your place. I don't recommend that everyone does this: that's partly (selfishly) because it would give us administrative problems. But it's also because if you haven't sung in a choir before, the first rehearsal is likely to be pretty confusing and it's probably worth giving it a bit more time...

If you are keen to join and new (that is, you haven't sung with us in the last year) — or if you've moved — please provide contact details online (the contact details page is live now and with luck will stay that way until after the 14th January 2014.) If for some reason you can't do that, please download, print and fill in a paper form and bring it with you.

Bring a pencil and eraser so you can make notes on the score.


We put on two public performances a year, at the end of our spring and autumn terms, usually accompanied by a small orchestra. The evenings are informal and great fun but it's real music done well. We often mix the choral pieces with performances from local students, and end the evening with food and drink.

In addition to our two major concerts we have a social evening in the summer where we eat, drink and do some singing. Many choir members take part in an annual evening of carol singing in Hampstead, raising money for the children's Christmas party at the Royal Free Hospital.

You can see and marvel at all we've sung in the last many years.

Our leaders

Ian Gibson has been our musical director since 2006, and was our accompanist and occasional conductor for the previous decade.

Ian's interest in singing began as a chorister at the Parish Church Choir in Enfield. He was educated at the Latymer School and was a Junior Exhibitioner at the Royal Academy of Music. Ian studied music at St Catharine's College, Cambridge where he was President of the College Music Society and a Choral Exhibitioner. Here, he conducted the College Orchestra and was soloist in Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto.

Ian is Assistant Director of Music and a Year Head at University College School, Hampstead where he conducts the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. For nine years he was Director of Camjam, a Saturday morning music centre run by Camden LEA.

Ian plays in the Enfield Chamber Orchestra and aside from his musical interests enjoys foreign travel, watching football and playing tennis.

Mark Denza is our regular rehearsal pianist and section director (which seriously understates his remarkably wide range of musical skills).

Philip Godfrey is well-known to us as a stand-in pianist and section director, and the composer of one of our December 2011 pieces.

Choir History

The North Camden Chorus was formed around 1978 to allow parents and students of William Ellis and Parliament Hill Schools to perform major choral works. We're less connected with the schools these days and don't have many school-age members, but local school students still perform solos in our concerts.

The choir has benefitted from a sudden surge of interest in choral singing (TV programmes may have helped) and we have had up to 160 members registered this year. We have an age range from under twenty to over seventy (we're pleased to have many more younger singers than a couple of years ago).

Previous conductors have included Colin Durrant, John Madden and Neil Bowman. Soloists have included Andrew Carwood, Mark Wilde and Michael Palin!

Getting in touch

Email (that's, if the email hotlink doesn't work for you); or call our secretary on 07960 337 130 or 020 7226 0032. Or you could join our facebook group, which is also called "North Camden Chorus".


This section is for events in the near future which may be of interest to members. I will post pretty much anything that anyone mails to me.

Sat 12th July from 10am Singers' study-and-sing workshop on composer Heinrich Biber, tutored by early music expert Philip Thorby. £20 for the day, click here for more information and application form. St George's Cathedral SE17 7HY
Wed 16th July 7.30pm The Mousai Singers (with Onyx Brass) sing Handel Coronation Anthems, McCabe Songs of the Garden, and Swayne The Yonghy Bonghy Bo. Web-page here.
This is NCC's very own Giles Swayne's piece, see below.
St Bride's (I guess that's the one in Fleet Street, EC4Y 8AU, but check)

Giles Swayne's The Yonghy Bonghy Bo

Giles writes: At 7.30 on Wednesday 16th July, my recent and possibly Immortal Work The Yonghy Bonghy Bo will receive its London premire at St Bride's, Fleet Street, London. Scored for soprano & baritone soloists, children's voices, choir, brass quintet and organ, it will be conducted by Daniel Cook. The choir are the Mousai Singers; Sky Ingram takes the part of the beautiful and abandoned Lady Jingly Jones, Giles Underwood sings that of the Yonghy Bonghy Bo, and Onyx Brass and Simon Hogan provide the instrumental accompaniment.

It is far from clear to me why anyone should describe Edward Lear's poem as wildly eccentric (except that anything not brain-dead or crudely commercial is seen as eccentric in this bogus age) but I am not responsible for publicity. The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-B deals with loneliness, love and loss, and is one of the most tragic & beautiful poems ever written. I have set it as a dramatic cantata lasting about 18 minutes. It is scored for soprano and baritone solo voices, children's choir, SATB choir, brass quintet, percussion and organ. There is also a brief solo eruption by a tenor from the chorus, who represents the distant and dastardly Mr Handel Jones.

In manner and structure the poem is a ballad; but since much of it consists of direct speech by the two protagonists (The Yonghy-Bonghy-B and Lady Jingly Jones) I have treated it as a drama. The chorus tells the story, singing mainly in unison and octaves so that the words can be clearly heard. The children's voices portray the sounds of surf on the shore, Bong-trees, pumpkins, forest sounds and clucking fowls; they also point up the narrative.

The location is distant and exotic. Lear would certainly have known that the Coromandel Coast is the name of the south-eastern tip of India near Pondicherry. The name Coromandel is a corruption of the Tamil word Cholamandalam — kingdom of the Chola (a dynasty which ruled this part of India for sixteen centuries from 300 BCE to 1300 CE).

The names Jingly and Yonghy-Bonghy-B have a distinctly Indian sound. My suspicion is that Handel Jones had his wicked way with a Coromandel girl, promising her marriage and respectability before leaving her in the lurch and fobbing her off with occasional gifts of poultry from Britain. The Yonghy-Bonghy-B has adored Lady Jingly since their childhood. He cannot offer the material security or social status with which Jones has inveigled her, but his love is as deep as the Indian Ocean which pounds the coast on which they live; and he points out that they could live comfortably because Fish is plentiful and cheap. Lady Jingly returns his love, but is bound by propriety and ambition to wait for Mr. Jones. In deepest misery, she rejects him with the killer line Will you please to go away?. The Yonghy-Bonghy-B flees in despair, climbs on the back of a passing turtle, and is swept into the depths of the ocean, nevermore to be seen — the implication being that he is carried to his death. Lady Jingly remains alone with her hens, forever mourning the loss of her beloved Yonghy-Bonghy-B, and waiting in vain for the wicked Mr. Jones.

The Yonghy-Bonghy-B was commissioned by John Armitage Memorial (JAM) and the St. Davids Cathedral Festival, with financial support from PRS for Music Foundation and the Britten-Pears Foundation.


Useful references for singers.

Choirs and orchestras

London Metropolitan Brass is a relatively new brass band based in North London (meets in Muswell Hill), looking for players.
Finchley Chamber Choir: regular concerts in Trinity Church, North Finchley, N12 7NN with this smaller and more expert choir. A good local place to hear choral repertoire.

Finding music in London

bachtrack is by far the best concert listings site I know of. If you have a free Saturday or fancy a lunchtime concert, this is your spot. Or if you have a passion for Ravel...

Charities and promoters

Nordoff Robbins is a charity which uses music in music therapy and community building. Their UK centre is at 2 Lissenden Gardens, NW5 1PQ — just round the corner from the school where we rehearse. They run concerts, usually pretty classy, benefitting the charity, a few times a year.
music&friends run choir festivals and international meetings.
RunBySingers set up musical holidays, which always sound very tempting.
The London Sangerstevner is a series of choral festivals.
Philip Norman Music Services do a lot of internet/email promotion of amateur music events — several of the above are from them.

Web indexes

Small Choirs Website claims 200+ free pieces of music for church choirs, and occasional festivals.

Free scores

The IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library is an excellent place to find free downloadable music scores.
ChoralWiki (formerly the Choral Public Domain Library) has a large collection of free downloadable material, mostly choral scores. Some scores are of very good quality, with excellent volunteer editors, some are rougher.

Website built and maintained by choir member Dominic Sweetman. Thanks to Ralf Bächle for hosting us for free.