'The happiest thing you can do' - Rock Choir leader on singing success

Singers from Rock Choir outside the National Trust's Blickling Hall near Aylsham

One of Jessica Allen's Rock Choir performances at Blickling Hall during a mystery singing bus tour in 2019 - Credit: ROCK CHOIR

Before lockdown, Jessica Allen was leading several choirs across the county, uniting individuals of all ages in a common interest.  

Now, almost a year on, the 29-year-old has transformed her living room into a music studio inside her home which she shares with fiancé Billy Ross and their “extremely fluffy” 17-year-old cat, Barley – a keen vocalist himself.  

And as well as running choirs in Norwich, Beccles, Lowestoft, Wymondham, and Thorpe, she has recently become a national spokesperson for the initiative, Rock Choir’s Rock Stars.  

Created in 2005, the award-winning choir is the largest contemporary choir in the world.

It is held in hundreds of towns across the country and is traditionally adults-only. But, during the February half-term, young singers aged between six and 16 were brought together to collaborate on a final song and video.  

Rock Choir leader, Jessica Allen

Rock Choir leader, Jessica Allen - Credit: ROCK CHOIR

On teaching virtually since last March, Miss Allen, who lives in Norwich's city centre, explained why online sessions had become important during the pandemic. 

She said: “As soon as lockdown was announced, we were able to adapt quickly and launch our sessions online straight away. It was extremely important for us to do this because so many people had lost out on seeing their family and friends.   

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“It’s been so rewarding and lovely to see familiar faces each week.” 

Before Covid, the University of East Anglia (UEA) graduate was teaching choirs weekly, as well as performing most weekends alongside them. Now, she is leading her choirs via her computer. 

“It’s been so beneficial seeing everyone," she added. 

“Now we’ve been here for an entire year, it’s amazing to look back on what we’ve achieved. We’ve done recording projects and have been raising money for charity by streaming concerts online."

Last May, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Rock Choir team hosted a 24-hour back-to-back music and well-being online event called Rock Choir 24, which raised over £45,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.

Then, thousands of singers across England, Wales, and Scotland, joined as one virtual choir to record a special Rock Choir version of Keeping the Dream Alive.

Speaking at the time, the chief executive of the foundation, Mark Rowland, said: "Music is great for our mental health; both listening to it and playing or singing which is why Rock Choir is such a great fit for us. We love knowing that people all around the country are taking part.”

Agreeing with his sentiments, Miss Allen confessed she has “always loved music” and has had an exciting career since learning piano aged six and oboe at 12.

Since then, she has taken every musical opportunity possible and performed in orchestras such as Norwich Pops Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra Anglia, Norfolk County Youth Orchestra, and UEA Symphony Orchestra.  

She was awarded a sixth form scholarship for music and the music perfect role at Norwich High School and was awarded the Hilda Houssart Scholarship for music at the UEA.   

As well as teaching piano privately, she composes music and loves bringing music to the public through teaching and performance.

On music tours, she has performed at Cologne Cathedral, St. Mark’s Basilica and other European venues. This includes many other local venues in Norfolk such as The Forum, St. Andrewʼs Hall, The Assembly House, and Norwich Cathedral.  

Rock Choir performing at Run Norwich 2019

Rock Choir performing at Run Norwich 2019 - Credit: ROCK CHOIR

“I think singing is such a fun thing to do, and it’s a way to release and express emotions, which is so important right now.   

“It's a creative outlet and helps to get rid of your stresses. I think It’s just the happiest thing you can do.  

“We teach everyone and we believe everyone can sing. One of my eldest members is 92 years old.”  

Rock Choir also ran the popular Keep Britain Singing campaign, featuring 106 consecutive days of fun and activity, attracting millions who sang every day through the first lockdown of 2020. This was also reintroduced at the beginning of this year.  

For more information on how you can be a part of Rock Choir, visit www.rockchoir.com

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