Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or a tunnel) fer all of your life, you’ll know that Nottingham is full of caves. Located inside our pubs, Broadmarsh shopping centre and maybe even your own home if you’re lucky, there are plenty of cold, dark spaces to explore in our city.
Over the years there have been quite a few parties and events held in these caves, but Belters Choir offered something a little different this summer. In July, the much loved local singing group took to the Park Tunnel for their annual Songs in the Tunnel sing song to raise money for Emmanuel House, and what a belter it was.
We sent Stephanie our photographer down to get some snaps of the night, and had a chat with seasoned Belters, Maria Kidulis and Claire Simpson, as well as the choir’s ringleader, Rachel Foster – who you might recognise from jazz bar, Peggy’s Skylight…
Who are Belters and how did you form?
M + C: There are about 40 women in the Belters family, which was created and led by Rachel Foster. It started 12 or 13 years ago with just a few of us in Rachel’s front room (which we outgrew some time ago!) and was an opportunity to sing a diverse range of songs in great company. Some of us have been with Belters from the very beginning and have naturally taken responsibilities to help Rachel keep the group organised and we have welcomed others as time has gone on…
R: Yes, we’re an all-female a cappella choir and I’m the Musical Director/bossy arm waver of the lot. We started because of a love of singing in harmony. I wanted to choose interesting material to work with so started my own group.
How long have you been doing the cave gigs?
M + C: We did our first one in 2015 and have continued to do it annually.
Why did you decide to take over the tunnel?
R: It's a bit wild: No electricity. No doors...
M + C: It’s an amazing space that holds historical significance to the local area and has fantastic acoustics. We chose to support Emmanuel House because of the signs of rough sleeping that we saw when we went to look at the space. There were sleeping bags and pink bin liners with stickers saying ‘unfit for human consumption’, so we knew we had to do something to help.
Where else do Belters perform usually?
R: Any interesting architectural spaces that have good acoustic properties.
M + C: We have performed at mini festivals – Light Night and Stuff of Life, also at Broadway Cinema and the Contemporary, as well as backing acts such as Daudi Matsiko and Church of the Cosmic Skull (brilliant fun) We organised our own gig at St Mary’s in the Lace Market last December, which we hope to repeat this year. We like to support local charities (such as Zephyr’s at the City Hospital) when we can.
Tell us a bit more about the evening! I saw you had samosas...
M + C: All the best events have samosas, they’re an art event staple! We also ran a licensed bar which always goes down well. Over the years we’ve also developed a tradition of people turning up with chairs, cushions, rugs etc, so they can settle down and enjoy the evening.
R: We sang some songs from the eastern European polyphonic tradition. That is when a tone is sung next to a tone. Most western harmony has intervals of 3rds (3 notes) and 5ths. The polyphonic sound can be eerie and also very moving. We also like songs with a good meaning or message, or just really interesting arrangement. We’ve recently been singing some jazz arrangements from spending so much time at Peggy's Skylight - an Independent Jazz venue in Hockley that I set up with my partner. We also love the gospel sound so we sing traditional songs like Wade in the Water and Gershwin's Summertime.
What are Belters up to next?
M + C: We will work our way up to a winter set to perform at our next fundraiser! (St Mary’s probably)
Belters Choir performed Songs In The Tunnel on Saturday 13 July.