Blackbird Leys Choir
Enabling ordinary people to sing extraordinary music

Blackbird Leys Choir is back! New members welcome

After the Summer break we are restarting our rehearsals for Autumn 2023. Owing to the forthcoming regeneration of the District Centre, the Community Centre where we have previously been rehearsing has closed, and so we are now regrouping just round the corner at the Church of the Holy Family church hall, with the rehearsal day changing to Mondays to fit in with availability of the church hall.

Forthcoming Events


Announcement coming soon — watch this space.

In the News

The science behind why choir-singing is good for you

Previous Events

11 December 2021: Carols at Sainsbury’s

A spot of carol singing at Sainsbury’s Heyford Hill to entertain people while they shopped for their Christmas food.

4 December 2021: St. Greg’s Christmas Fair

St. Gregory the Great Catholic School held a Christmas Fair on Saturday 4 December. As part of this, the Choir was invited to sing some carols and other music in the school hall. Although it was draughty because of ventilation to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we welcomed this as our first (somewhat informal) concert since the start of the pandemic, and sang a selection of both popular and more obscure carols intermixed with a few ‘world music’ inspired pieces from about 12:30pm (after an intervention from a troupe of majorette dancers).

19 December 2020: Outdoor carol singing

In the middle of a pandemic, on a cold December afternoon in a rain shower, we lifted our spirits by singing some socially distanced outdoor carols outside the Church of the Holy Family in Blackbird Leys.

19 October 2019: Autumn Concert
To brighten an autumn evening in October we returned to St Andrew’s Church in Sandford-on-Thames for a concert featuring the music we had studied during the year.

The Royal Society in London hosted a Summer Science Exhibition featuring a couple of dozen hands-on exhibits by research teams from universities around the country explaining how they are contributing to science and technology. A research team from Oxford University asked us to help them with their exhibit about how your brain influences the way you breathe, by putting on a few short demos of choral singing as an example of a discipline in which breathing is important.

29 June 2019: Leys Funday

The charity Home-Start Oxford asked us to provide some musical entertainment at their stand at the Summer Leys Funday in Blackbird Leys Park, on what turned out to be the hottest day in June.

15 June 2019: Brookfield

We gave a private performance to the residents at Brookfield Care Home in Greater Leys. This was our second visit there.

15 March 2019: Red Nose Day

Some members of the choir got up early on the Friday morning of Red Nose Day in order to appear on Radio Oxford as part of their project to record and broadcast choirs around Oxford during the day.

15 December 2018: Christmas Sing-Along

On a Saturday afternoon before Christmas we presented an audience-participation concert in which we sang some of our repertoire and invited the audience to join in with some well-known traditional Christmas carols.

22 November 2018: St Cecilia’s Day

On St Cecilia’s Day, the twenty-second day of November, Blackbird Leys Choir joined several other choirs at Oxford Town Hall to celebrate the patron saint of music and Oxford’s twin cities. Featuring ‘Cecilia’s Travels’, a cheerful cantata specially written for the occasion by Arne Richards with words by Pat Winslow and Isabel Knowland, as well as a performance from each choir’s repertoire.

28 July 2018: Summer Concert

Our main summer concert, as last year, took place in the evening at the Parish Church of St Andrew in Sandford-on-Thames, south of the Oxford ring road. It featured both sacred classical pieces and popular music; spirituals and a hit song from a blockbuster film.

3pm at the Church of St Mary and St Nicholas, Littlemore.

Blackbird Leys Choir shared a concert with a range of other talented musicians from the local area.

20 December 2017: Oxford Central Library Opening

The Choir was invited to help Oxford Central Library celebrate its reopening in the new Westgate Centre. We sang in the library one evening with a few Christmas carols and other songs.

18,19 November 2017: Oxford Christmas Lights Festival

On the third weekend in November, the city of Oxford held its Lights Festival. Dozens of local choirs took part in ‘Sing Christmas’ at locations around the city. Blackbird Leys Choir appeared at 2pm on Saturday at the Covered Market and also 3pm on Sunday at the recently reopened Westgate Shopping Centre.

22 July 2017: Summer Concert

Our main summer event this year was a Saturday evening concert at the Parish Church in the village of Sandford-on-Thames, south of the Oxford ring road. Our theme for this concert was music for, and about, the stage. We presented some Shakespeare-themed songs, some opera, some songs from musicals, and a piece from Purcell’s Fairy Queen.

A relaxed Sunday afternoon with tea and cake in aid of Restore, the mental health charity. We offered a preview of our July summer concert programme.

6 July 2017: Over-50s club

Members of the choir sang for the over-50s club on a Thursday afternoon at St Michael and All Angels Church in Marston.

A spring concert in the Norman church in Iffley village on the outskirts of Oxford. We featured music from Britain through the ages.

14 December 2016: Christmas Concert
Christmas carols and songs at Holy Family Church
6 December 2016: The Big Turn On

A large Christmas tree was installed outside the church opposite Blackbird Leys shops and the lights were turned on in an evening community event featuring the three local primary schools, a brass band, and of course participation from Blackbird Leys Choir.

9 July 2016: Summer Concert

Blackbird Leys Choir was joined by Cantare Ladies’ Choir for a summer concert in the Glow Hall at Blackbird Leys Community Centre.

Cantare’s conductor Michael Betteridge composed a new piece called Sing! Sing! especially for both choirs to perform at this concert.

St Michael’s is running a varied stream of free lunchtime concerts on Mondays and we were pleased to have been invited to perform in June. The choir performed a mixture of madrigals and spirituals and some unusual hymns that you don’t normally sing in church. This concert raised £270 for a local charity: Cowley Child Contact Centre.

This concert included performances by local choirs Wox Vox, EOCC Children’s Choir, Oxford Analyrical and The Ad Hoc Singers, as well as Blackbird Leys Choir. It finished with a massed choir performance of Handel’s Zadok the Priest accompanied by the Hinksey Hill Farm Quartet.

20 December 2015: Carol Service
The choir took part in the Church community’s annual carol service at Church of the Holy Family.
17 October 2015: Public Workshop and Concert

An invitation was opened to anyone interested in singing to join us in an afternoon workshop to learn some basic techniques and prepare a piece to sing in concert. This turned out to be a very educational and productive afternoon.

In the evening we put on a concert including music both ancient and modern during which we invited our extra members for the day to take part in the piece we learned at the workshop. The programme included madrigals, traditional songs and other folkish music, a few solos from choir members, and a medley of popular gospel numbers.

View the archived event page.

26 March 2015: Spring Folk Concert

Our final concert with Elisabeth at Magdalen College Chapel: upon the arrival of Spring, we imagined walking through the Salley Gardens and saw love as a flowering rose in a short selection of folk songs.

9 December 2014: Christmas Concert
Magdalen College Chapel, 8pm

A Christmas themed concert, with a few traditional carols for the audience to join in and some of our folkish pieces including a couple of lesser known carols.

23 November 2014: Day of Song

As part of the Christmas Light Festival, the Day of Song featured several of Oxford’s community choirs in venues in the city centre. Blackbird Leys Choir sang from the balcony to passers-by in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

21 June 2014: Summer Concert
Blackbird Leys Choir presented a short summer folk concert at Magdalen College Chapel.
12–14 December 2013: Rock Nativity

Blackbird Leys Productions presents the greatest story ever sung: Rock Nativity! A musical by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, with words by David Wood. The production featured choirs from Windale, Orchard Meadow and Pegasus primary schools with the Blackbird Leys Choir.

Venue: Church of the Holy Family, Blackbird Leys OX4 6JH.

These amateur performances were given by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd.

Our last choral event before the summer break was a meeting on the veranda outside the Bullnose Morris pub where we sang a set of our popular numbers.
The Choir, newly enhanced by many of the cast members from Joseph, put on a concert of highlights from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat supported by a programme of light choral music including some popular folk and pop numbers. This concert raised £600 for Didcot TRAIN Youth Project.
21–23 February 2013: Joseph
Members of Leys CDI and of Holy Family Church in Blackbird Leys formed a community group and invited ordinary residents of the estate to join in and put on an amateur production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber) hosted at the church. The Blackbird Leys Choir provided the choral backing for this production, which was performed to roughly 300 people from around the estate and surrounding areas on three nights in February.

The Choir helped the community of East Oxford get into the Christmas spirit with a mixture of sacred and secular Christmas music at Saints Mary and John Church on Cowley Road.

9 & 21 July 2012: Tree of Light
The Tree of Light was a spectacular arts project bringing together 40 diverse community groups from the Thames Valley. The piece told an epic tale from the long life of a mythical tree. It featured a light show, drama, dancing and music composed by Orlando Gough. Our first performance was at South Park, Oxford, in conjuction with the Olympic Torch relay. The grand finale took place in the rolling hills of Oxfordshire at Stonor Park, Henley.

A DVD was produced from both performances, and also featured a "making-of" documentary. This was a limited production run and is now sold out.

28 April 2012: Wolvercote

The next in our series of county church concerts took place at St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote where we joined forces with the choir of Worcester College, Oxford. The programme included Vivaldi’s Gloria and some of our favourite anthems by Mozart, Bach, Purcell and Beethoven. Our guests also performed three anthems by Bruckner, Pitoni and Parry.

A CD of this concert is available — please contact Trevor (see Contact page).

18 December 2011: Carol Service
As usual, members of the Choir were invited to take part in the annual carol service at our local church by singing two carols.
4 December 2011: Steeple Aston
The performed Britten’s Ceremony of Carols accompanied by harp at St Peter & St Paul’s, Steeple Aston. We were joined by special guest singers from Dr Radcliffe’s School. The first half of the concert was made up of a supporting programme of shorter pieces with a Christmas theme, including some old favourites.
15 October 2011: Radley Church
The Choir visited the Parish Church of St James the Great at Radley in our continuing series of Oxfordshire church concerts featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria. The programme included our church anthem favourites; Hungarian Songs, and a couple of madrigals including one of our new G&S pieces.
1 October: 123sing!
On the first weekend in October, Classic FM invited groups to put on singing events in aid of music therapy for disabled children, in a nationwide celebration called 123sing!. Blackbird Leys Choir invited members of the local community to take part in a singing workshop during the day on the Saturday and thence to help us put on a concert in the evening.

The event was not well attended by the community, but the choir did learn several new pieces for our repertoire selected from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

9 July: Deddington
Another concert in our series of Oxfordshire church concerts featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria was held at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Deddington. The programme included church anthems, madrigals, and a full performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.
3 July 2011: Wardington House
Wardington House is a nursing home with a particular focus on those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Each summer they hold a Garden Party, and this year the Choir was enlisted to provide entertainment.
5 June 2011: Headington Festival
The Choir put on an open-air performance as a finale for the ninth Headington Festival.
21 May 2011: Waterstone’s Book Shop
Gareth Malone (The Choir, BBC1) was in town this week promoting his new book, and gave a presentation at Holywell Music Room on Wednesday 25th. Leading up to this, Waterstone’s invited Blackbird Leys Choir to perform for half an hour on the ground floor of their Oxford book shop. A mixture of classical and lighter music was featured.
An event at Oxford Town Hall hosted by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire with guest conductor John Lubbock and the Oxford Philomusica, this featured diverse local choirs who each performed a couple of short items and then joined together for Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Hallelujah. The concert raised money for Oxfordshire Community Foundation.
19 February 2011: Garsington

The next venue in our series of county church concerts was St Mary’s, Garsington. The programme included a selection of short classical choral works and concluded with Vivaldi’s Gloria accompanied by organ.

Blackbird Leys Choir celebrated its fifth birthday in style by singing Vivaldi’s Gloria with a chamber orchestra and guest soloists in the Jacqueline du Pré building, one of Oxford’s premier classical music venues. To lead up to this were two instrumental numbers and four shorter sacred choral pieces, followed by birthday cake and speeches. Ivor Setterfield, the conductor who launched the choir on Channel Five back in 2006, was invited to join the audience for the event and ended up taking a guest spot as the alto soloist in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, the eighth movement of the Gloria. The High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and the Deputy Mayor of Oxford were also in the audience.

If you missed this event, you missed a real treat — but there may be a chance to relive the birthday celebration because the whole thing was videoed. In addition, we are repeating the Gloria at future events (see above).

15 December 2010: Didcot Station
Great Western Railways invited the choir to sing carols for passing commuters in Didcot Parkway station.
5 December 2010: Great Rollright
Following last year’s successful concert at Great Rollright, the Choir paid a return visit for an early concert featuring a full performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols accompanied by harp.
19 November 2010: Hope and Aid
A choir concert hosted by Faringdon Junior School in aid of Hope and Aid Direct featuring four of the region’s choirs: Cotswold Children’s Choir, After Eight, The Cotswold Voices, and of course Blackbird Leys Choir. The concert raised over 1800 for the charity, which sends aid to Kosovo.
21 October 2010: The Leys Women’s Institute
The Leys WI had a special event involving other WI branches in the area, held at the Clock House in Greater Leys. A Choir performance was the highlight of the night, featuring some of our more popular favourites.
16 October 2010: Church Hanborough
An evening concert at St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Church Hanborough (near Witney). This included a full performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria, supported by a programme of other classical choral works.
2 October 2010: Concert of Voices
The Choir took part in a varied concert hosted by the Scouts at St Gregory the Great School in Oxford in the company of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. Six pupils of the school opened the concert with a selection of three show tunes. Other performers included Short Drag Roger performing sea shanties and Pete Standing’s band performing folk songs and ceilidh tunes. Blackbird Leys Choir ended the proceedings with a selection of popular music including Abba songs.
8 May 2010: Step Up

Oxford City Council ran an event in Blackbird Leys to provide information on recreation, education, training and employment. Activities took place at the Community Centre, the Leisure Centre and the Barn. The Choir performed for about 50 minutes at the Barn with pieces from our repertoire and introduced one of our new pieces — an English madrigal.

26 March 2010: BBL Choir Sing Gloria

A free community concert in the centre of Blackbird Leys, our home estate.

The choir performed a half-hour programme of favourites from our existing repertoire and then concluded the event with a complete performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria — the first time we performed the full work in concert before taking it on tour.

27 February 2010: Sing for Hope

A half-hour performance by the choir at St Leonard’s Church, Eynsham included three sections of Vivaldi’s Gloria together with our favourite sacred pieces and American folk songs. Other performers at the event included Oxford Gospel Choir and members of Eynsham Choral Society. This event was to support a rider taking part in Cycle For Hope and raised well over a thousand pounds.

6 February 2010: Doyle Variety Performance
The Theatre, Headington Girls School. The choir performed 7–10 minutes in each half of both Saturday events as guests of the Doyle Academy of Irish Dancing. Music included You Raise Me Up and a medley of themes from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals.
20 December 2009: Carol Service
The choir sang the Coventry Carol during the annual carol service at Holy Family Church, Blackbird Leys.
12 December 2009: Sing Christmas
The choir performed carols (and a couple of popular songs) in Bonn Square, Oxford as part of a wider event organised by the City Council and involving several of Oxford’s choirs. Blackbird Leys Choir was first on at 12:15 and the event lasted all afternoon in several locations in the city centre. [More Sing Christmas info] [Oxford Mail story]
21 November 2009: St Andrew’s Church, Great Rollright

Incorporating Sing Hallelujah.

The choir performed a mix of sacred and secular music to a full church of about 60. Programme included: Vivaldi’s Gloria (opening movement); Jesu Joy (Bach), Ave Verum (Mozart), Steal Away (Tippett), folk songs and shanties, Da doo ron ron, Stand by me, Money Money Money, Bridge over Troubled Water, and of course Hallelujah. At the end of the concert about a dozen audience members joined the ranks of the choir for an encore of Hallelujah. A collection during the concert raised over 350 for Children in Need.

14 November 2009: Phil Minton’s Feral Choir

A subsection of the choir joined forces with performers from Oxford Improvisers and Joined Up Singing on stage at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building in an improvised mix of sounds and musical themes. [Extract on YouTube]

Last updated on 11 September 2023