By Alison Venn

Welcome to the new kids on the block. It’s Friday night and I’ve counted 47 children of assorted sizes, from 7 to 12 years old, having the time of their lives with Dulwich Children’s Choir (and it’s not just for Dulwich). They’re arranged over the choir stalls at St Barnabas Church, Dulwich, completely rapt in the warm - up, singing Nelly the Elephant and a Fruit Salad song with gusto, bobbing up and down, spinning and stretching to high - five their partners, part of the lively choreography. They’re learning to play their voices like instruments, tackling the challenges of rounds and syncopated rhythms, swooping up and down the scales, counting the bars, concentrating on the conductor and having fun. I’m mildly jealous!

Director of Music Christopher Woodward is on a mission to inspire children to sing. And it’s working: everyone is at ease, even when he calls random names to sing solo. DCC is in its second year, now bursting with confidence; it has its own identity working with the adult choir, but not playing second fiddle. DCC leads the singing at St Barnabas services on the first Sunday of the month and joins the adult choir to give a professional concert annually. It’s ambitious repertoire. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s The Manchester Carols in the choir’s first year, post - Covid, told a gritty and miraculous Christmas story for the 21st Century. In 2022 the choice of concert music included carols from Ukraine and the Australian bush alongside Vaughan Williams’ The First Nowell, embracing our new diverse community. The children have experienced the challenge and the thrill of performing to a huge audience, with a professional orchestra and soloists and a strong adult choir.

Eight - year - old Jacob explained. ‘You feel you have to sing better and listen harder. The songs could be filled with sadness or happiness. You could be singing really slow, but then really high and fast. At first, I found it quite overwhelming. Now I’m much more comfortable. I come here week in and week out and I relax and sing. It gives me a chance to take my mind off things elsewhere. I’ve made new friends.’ Jacob will be in his element when DCC goes on tour in July, with sleepovers for four days. ‘Going to Oundle will be fun, singing and eating together and looking round a new town.’

Hats off to Chris for making the opportunities to sing, learn and grow together so accessible. Junior roving reporters Felix aged 8, Muriel aged 9 and Lucy aged 12 wanted to find out more about their conductor:

Muriel: What inspired you to create the DCC?

Chris: I was a chorister when I was 7, 8, 9 and it’s definitely made me the person I am today, because I love singing and I love working with children between the ages of 7 and 13. They’re the best.

Lucy: How do you decide the songs we sing?

Chris: Many of the songs we sing are chosen for us for the festivals like Easter and Christmas. But I take a lot of time thinking about music we might sing at concerts because I like to find things that you’ll enjoy singing.

Muriel: What has been your greatest achievement so far with DCC?

Chris: The thing I’m proudest of so far is that we now sing adult services on our own, without the adult choir, which is a really difficult thing to do because there’s nobody behind us. So, the fact that we’re able to sing as a choir and get 34 children here on a Sunday morning…. I’m very proud of that.

Felix: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Chris: To make more people know how brilliant it is being in a choir. You can only do that by having someone like me and people like you to turn up. We’re very lucky in Dulwich because we have lots of people to help us. So, my superpower would be to recreate St Barnabas Dulwich in different places across the country.

Muriel: What’s your favourite musical?

Chris: I love musicals and I used to work in the West End. My favourite musical is one you may not have seen called Come From Away. It’s about what happened after 9/11 when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in Canada. The characters are based on actual residents and stranded travellers they housed and fed.

Felix: If you could play one song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Chris: It would probably be Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

For more information about joining the choir, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.