Wednesday 1st March 2017


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Verity Standen Refrain Photo Paul Blakemore Courtesy Situations and Verity Standen

Local Male Singers wanted for REFRAIN – a remarkable event taking place in St Helens this May.

In 2017, three unique sites across England will be brought to life with extraordinary vocal music, in a new piece by artist, composer and choir leader Verity Standen. St Helens, Merseyside, is the second of these sites. Over the weekend of 19th-21st May, audiences will be invited to explore locations around the George Street Quarter as never before, as voices resonate around the site.


REFRAIN is not ‘about’ conscientious objection, but it is inspired by the histories of conscientious objection in Richmond, St Helens and Newhaven, the three performance sites.

Verity Standen and partners Heart of Glass and Situations are looking for local male singers to take part in this amazing St Helens event as performers. Perhaps you sing in a local choir, and fancy a new challenge? Perhaps you have never sung in public, but would love to try? No experience is necessary – Verity is running taster sessions in St Helens town centre for anyone who would like to come and find out more.

To register your interest, or ask any questions, please email Suzanne Dempsey Sawin on Please include your name, where you are based, and any singing experience you have (but don’t worry if it’s none).

When would I need to be available?

11th or 12th April (Taster): Open evening workshops – drop in and find out more about the project

29th & 30th April: Rehearsal weekend – start learning the music, coached by Verity and her team of professional singers

13th & 14th May: Rehearsal weekend – practicing the music, coached by Verity and her team of professional singers

16th – 18th May: Rehearsal Evenings – including dress rehearsals

19th – 21st May: Public performances across the weekend

You will need to attend one of the taster sessions and the majority of rehearsals and be available for most performances.

What will I be expected to do?

Verity doesn’t use any written music – everything is taught casually, by ear. The piece will have no or very few words. You will also be moving around the site, bringing to life different rooms and areas with music designed for each specific location, which might involve some simple choreography. Verity and her team will always be there to lead and conduct.

What if I’m not a confident or experienced singer?

If you come along to the open workshops, you’re not making any commitment – they’re a friendly opportunity to meet with Verity, try some singing and find out whether the project is right for you.

We expect a big range of experiences – from men who have sung in choirs for decades to men who’ve never sung outside their own shower.

REFRAIN is all about filling an amazing site with the sound of voices. For this project, composer Verity Standen is focusing on the sound and texture of male voices.

Also, this is an opportunity for men (whether or not they have any experience of singing) to come together for an extraordinary arts event.

What will it sound like / what will the experience be for the audience?

REFRAIN is a brand new project, and will be developed through the rehearsal process. But you can read about previous projects by the artist Verity Standen, and watch videos from her other productions, at Verity’s work draws on a wide range of musical styles – from Eastern European folk to contemporary classical to raucous sea shanties.

Producers Situations specialise in remarkable public art events – you can find out more about other projects they have made happen at

The audience will be invited to explore the site, with live music happening all around them.

What is the connection to conscientious objectors?

The three sites for REFRAIN (St Helens, Richmond and Newhaven) all have a hugely diverse history, all of which are inspiring Verity’s composition. In particular, St. Helens was the home of the local school teacher, Ernest Everett who was arrested because of his refusal to undertake combative service in 1916. He was court martial led and sentenced to two years hard labour, the first conscientious objector to receive such a sentence.

REFRAIN is not ‘about’ conscientious objection, but it is inspired by the stories of these men. Producers Situations will be curating a series of events around the production – talks, debates, films – to discuss what conscientious objection means to us today. We would love for the participating singers to join these talks, and to help consider how this special music event offers a different way to think history.