In 2019, whilst studying in Edinburgh, two wonderful Chilean musician-filmmakers made a 50-minute documentary about Protest in Harmony, which can be viewed here:
Protest in Harmony was honoured to win the accolade of Hands Up for Trad Community Music Project of the Year in 2018. Here’s an edited and updated version of our submission for the award that explains who we are, what we do, and what motivates us.
We are not affiliated to any political, environmental or religious group. We are a flexible community of individuals who believe that song can be a powerful, positive force in the world. Our monthly sessions are inclusive and open to all, whether experienced singers or complete beginners. We also facilitate occasional singing and song writing workshops.
What unites us is our belief in the importance of the songs we sing and our love of singing them together in harmony. The choir is facilitated by three excellent, experienced song leaders, who making singing accessible to everyone who comes along, with no auditions and no judgements.
We aim to empower people through song, to help people find a voice, and to sing in solidarity with oppressed people and those whose voices have been silenced throughout the world. We draw on the rich worldwide repertoire of political songs, including those of the US Civil Rights movement, the anti-apartheid struggle and human rights struggles in Latin America. We also write our own songs about current issues. We are part of the UK Campaign Choirs network.
How we began
Our group started in 2003 after members had felt surprised and disappointed at the lack of singing on the huge anti-Iraq war march in Glasgow that year. We had a strong belief that rather than just shouting slogans, singing in the streets is an inherently positive thing to do. When bystanders hear shouting in the street they may feel worried or even threatened; when they hear singing they tend to be intrigued and are drawn in closer.
Since 2003, we have sung on scores of marches and demonstrations, at political events and fundraising concerts, and to commemorate memorable events. We have found that singing together is life-enhancing and inherently welcoming and inclusive: at every event, members of the public are encouraged to join in. Politicians attending demonstrations have also joined in some of our songs, including the former First Minister of Scotland, and even attending police officers are sometimes roused to sing along too.
Events at which we sing
Over the course of the year, there are regular commitments at which the choir sings. These include Open Shuhada Street (February) — solidarity with Palestine; International Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April); International Conscientious Objection Day (15 May); vigil for Grenfell (14 June); Street Choirs Festival (June or July); Hiroshima Day (6 August) and commemorating the Bhopal disaster (3 December).
In addition, we bring a harmonious presence to events that protest against nuclear weapons, the arms trade, cuts in public services, and the climate crisis.
What motivates us
We love that we can protest in four-part harmony about awful things; that the choir helps us find a voice about issues we really care about; that it brings non-violent resistance into the heart of our lives. And we love that it can be enormous fun!
Protest in Harmony has helped many of us rediscover our voices. It’s a source of joy to be able to take a stand alongside like-minded people on the issues we can about in a non-violent, life-enhancing and uplifting way.