A part of the year of Amazing Grace, the challenge was to bring 250 voices together to perform a new song, written to mark the 250th anniversary of the hymn, Amazing Grace.
On 17 June, 2023, Music Director, Craig McCleish met the challenge when 279 singers from 13 choirs joined together for this first public performance of one song from Forever?, the new piece of music commissioned to mark the milestone anniversary. Forever? is a new, contemporary musical response to the original hymn with music by renowned composer Roderick Williams and words by celebrated poet Rommi Smith.
Song 8, A Hymn’s Review? was performed as part of Milton Keynes Community Choirs’ Festival in Campbell Park
Along with Gospel choir MK Sweet Sound – created as part of Amazing Grace 250 – the other participating singers were members from:
Hart and Soul Community Choir
Grand Union Community Choir
Musica Charity Choir
Milton Keynes Community Choir
Birmingham Town Hall Gospel Choir
Poet Rommi Smith was also there and shared with people the ideas and inspiration behind this song and the commission itself.
As part of the project, Craig had also put out a message to singers who were not a member, or whose choir was not performing at the Choir Festival
‘If you’re not already a member of one of the choirs taking part in the Festival you can still join in the first ever sing of Song 8 from “Forever?”. If you have experience of choral singing that is great but anyone with singing experience is welcome. You can sing all or even just a part of the piece and it will be a valuable contribution. Let’s commemorate this amazing anniversary in a fitting way – singing some wonderful music.’
From this call out, 15 singers came together as the Amazing Grace Choir, with rehearsals in Olney.
‘250 Voices was an amazing opportunity to be the first to sing part of a new work which explores what Amazing Grace means to people today.”
“On New Year’s Day 2023 – 250 years since Reverend John Newton (1725-1807) wrote Amazing Grace for his New Year’s Day service at St Peter & St Paul Church, Olney in 1773 – people from around the world marked the moment by singing Amazing Grace.”
“Revisiting Amazing Grace, has been a wonderful opportunity to consider and explore the legacy of this iconic hymn and of its author – and this new song from Forever? will be part of a lasting legacy of this extraordinary year.’
Amanda Molcher, Trustee of the Cowper & Newton Museum, Olney, lead partner for the Amazing Grace 250 programme.
The Forever? project was kindly supported by: