RHUL chapel choir release new single to raise awareness for mental health

Group will donate the proceeds to several UK charities


To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, the Choir of Royal Holloway and soprano Laura Wright have released a single by award-winning composer Thomas Hewitt Jones and lyricist Matt Harvey.

The group will donate all proceeds from the track “Can You Hear Me”, which premiered on Classic FM on Sunday morning, to Stay Strong, a campaign that aims to connect those suffering from various mental health issues during the coronavirus lockdown to relevant charities.

The song, which aims to address feelings of loneliness that many people have experienced during lockdown, is available for purchase here.

“This is the first time we have undertaken something like this,” choir director Rupert Gough told the Royal Holloway Tab. “We have given live concerts for charity, but we haven’t made recordings before.”

Choir director, Rupert Gough.

Charities the group will donate to include the suicide prevention hotline Samaritans, LGBT charity Stonewall, and child abuse prevention charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

For choir members under lockdown, recording the single itself presented a challenge. The recording came together thanks to the know-how of composer Hewitt Jones and a recording studio made famous by the Beatles.

“Each choral scholar was sent the music and a recording of the backing with a click track,” explained Gough. “There were no rehearsals.

“The hard part is the editing process, getting all the voices perfectly lined up, and also improving the sound quality from recordings made on mobile phones,” he added. “ The composer is a genius at this, so he transformed a collection of home recordings into a professional quality recording, with a little help in post-production from Abbey Road Studios.”

The lyrics of the song aim to remind us that we are not alone and that help is within reach for anyone who needs it.

Though you’re so far away

I will hold you one day

Can you hear me?

I can hear you.

An accompanying music video, which features shots of the soloists and the choir, depicts contrasting scenes of loneliness and togetherness.

One in four adults have experienced loneliness during the coronavirus lockdown, a study by the University of Cambridge finds. Young people are the most likely to be affected, with more than four in ten under-24s reporting feeling lonely. Before the lockdown, this number was just one in six.

In addition to connecting those in need to mental health professionals, the campaign has recruited celebrities to share on social media how they find strength during the lockdown. “A physical activity in the morning puts me in a buoyant mood to face the day,” said former England rugby player Victor Ubogu, in a post on Instagram.

Recording the track has also been an uplifting experience for the separated choir, as it has allowed them to sing together again, albeit virtually. Choral scholar Ellie Ajao told the Royal Holloway Tab that: “One of the hardest parts of lockdown is being unable to sing with my closest friends every day.

“Although we aren’t able to sing together physically, singing in this wonderful ‘virtual choir’ has been a brilliant way of creating a similar atmosphere,” said Ajao. “Being able to keep my love of music going really is helping me to stay strong while I’m away from my family.”

Where to listen to the choir                               

While live services are suspended during the current crisis, you can still listen to the Choir of Royal Holloway every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 18:00 on YouTube and Facebook, where the choir is releasing live recordings from its archive as part of its “Singles @ Six” initiative. The choir also recently released an album, “The Hours – Music by Ben Parry”, with plans to release two additional albums this year.

Where to find help

Nobody should suffer in silence. If you are a student at Royal Holloway experiencing mental health problems, contact the Student Wellbeing Team, which offers help and advice to students throughout their studies.

Links to various charities are also listed on the Stay Strong campaign website.