THIS weekend hundreds of people will take to the stage to perform in a festival which is all about celebrating the human voice and communal singing.
Chorus Festival, curated and organised by Southbank Centre, will feature 40 choirs from across the country who will perform a range of musical styles across four stages, in a series of free concerts.
As well as being able to sit back and listen to some amazing music, there will also be a chance to take part in a range of interactive workshops and free events aimed at encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to join together in a big sing.
The highlight will be Choirs Remixed, a show featuring a whole host of alternative choirs on the Royal Festival Hall stage.
It will be an opportunity to hear innovative arrangements incorporating musical styles as diverse as rock, pop, jazz, gospel and beatboxing as well as hear new pieces created especially for the show.
Headlining it will be Andreya Triana, a London born singer-songwriter who will be performing songs from her album Giants alongside the hundreds of singers from the different choirs which include Some Voices, London Contemporary Voices and The Mike King Collective.
Also performing is new 50-strong all-male choir Beyond the Bassline, formed by the show's host, beatboxer Shlomo, and Southbank Centre’s own Voicelab.
Not only has the world record breaking beatboxer, composer and world looping champion helped form the group, he's also composed a piece of music especially for them which will get its premiere on the night, something he says he’s extremely excited about.
“I’m honoured to have been asked to be involved and am super excited about having one of my pieces performed in it," he tells me.
“I’ve only been composing work for other people for about four or five years now and I get a real buzz out of it.
“Beyond The Bassline is an amazing mix of people – all aged from about 18 and up and from all walks of life, different backgrounds and experiences.
“What’s great about it is that it’s a very inclusive project. Some of them have never sung before. I held an open call out for people to come along, there was no audition, I just wanted to get as many as possible who wanted to take part.
“It’s awesome as they are all there to celebrate music and the human voice."
He admits it’s been a bit of a learning curve for him not least teaching them how to beatbox but he says he’s really proud of their achievements after only a few weeks of rehearsals. And he’s confident they will nail it on the night.
“The first time we all met a few weeks ago I told them to just act like kids and make a load of sounds and they really went for it,” he laughs.
“It was absolutely fantastic to see them running around and making all these noises.
“When I composed the song I had to keep it simple so they could learn it by ear but I’ve pushed them out of their comfort zone.
“I was really nervous as I didn’t know if they would like it but they just ran with it and the energy was amazing – I was flying!"
So can anyone beatbox I ask?
“It’s something that anyone can do but you have to do your homework,” he says. “It’s got that joyous thing that you don’t have to buy expensive equipment to do it. It’s democratic in the same way that dance is. Everyone can learn.”
Shlomo has been beatboxing since he “was a kid” and practising rhythms with his drum kit. He admits he has always been “obsessed” with music, perhaps not surprisingly given that his father was a jazz musician.
He grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder before turning to jazz and latterly electronic music.
When he was 18 he began touring with the award winning hip hop group Foreign Beggars before finding himself collaborating with Bjork on her vocal album Medulla.
It was, he says, a “life changer”.
“At the time I was doing stuff as a way to show off but she saw it as a raw musical composition. It inspired me to think about my music more seriously,” he says.
Since then he has worked with some “brilliant” people including Imogen Heap, Rudimental, Lily Allen and Ed Sheeran, written the score for the BFI’s restoration for Alfred Hitchcock’s Downhill, as well as a specially commissioned piece for the Royal Festival Hall’s restored organ.
And as well as working on these and other projects he has his own band, is preparing for a stint at Udderbelly’s purple cow this summer as well as a solo show, New Rules, not to mention composing material for a new album due out next year.
But for now his focus is on the Chorus Festival and getting his choir ready for their debut performance.
And he says that being at the Royal Festival Hall, a venue he’s performed at many times, is still a thrill. Indeed, he has a long association with the Southbank Centre, not least being made artist in residence in 2007, a title he still has.
“It’s been an absolutely joyous relationship which gives endless challenges and possibilities,” he says warmly. “It’s the most magical place, a real creative hub that I love being part of.
“This festival is particularly special. It's a celebration of the human voice and you don’t get many opportunities to hear something like that so it's going to be a fantastic weekend.
“Andreya is amazing with a very soulful and beautiful sound. But with all the choirs there it will be a pretty magical experience and I’m super proud to have created something with this amazing group of people. I hope they will be inspired to do more and keep singing.”
Chorus Festival is on at the Southbank Centre from Friday, March 18 until Sunday, March 20. Visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk for full listings.