Kingdom of United Voices
The true and inspirational story of music from Trimley St. Martin and the wider world
Have you heard ‘Across the Borders’ before? Do you know the story of the song? Have you heard of The Kingdom of United Voices?
In this country, the answer to these two questions is probably no and no and no again, unless you happen to be Chandra Grover or are part of Felixstowe Harmonies Group or Stellar Accappella. Or maybe if you listened to either Radio Suffolk or Felixstowe Radio this bright and frosty morning. From today, 1st January 2021, everyone will be able to listen to the beautiful outcome of a musical collaboration between Chandra of Trimley St. Martin and Patti Burklund, who lives in America, neither of whom have ever met. They probably wouldn’t know about each other if it wasn’t for Covid 19. This terrible virus has damaged and destroyed many lives but out of this all-encompassing disease, something surprisingly good has emerged.
I first met Chandra about two years ago following an introduction from her neighbour, Laura Locke who had said,
“Talk to Chandra, my next-door neighbour. She’s had a very interesting life and you’ll be amazed at what she does…”
This proved to be true in many ways and this last year has solidified her reputation as a creative and gifted musician.
How random events come together…
Part of musician Chandra’s[i] life before Lockdown was her directorship of Felixstowe Harmonies[ii], a women’s choir. The regular meetings that took place stopped as of 24th March 2020, the rug was pulled from under the feet of the Choir and the members were temporarily without a meeting home. As Chandra wrote in her contribution to my Pandemic Blog in May 2020,
‘This was the week that changed my world. Choirs stopped singing together, my students cancelled, orchestra cancelled as well as two concerts that everyone had been working so hard for. All stopped. All within one week!’
But, she had heard of Zoom, something that has now entered many people’s lives. The decision was made to hold an online choir session. At the first emotional meeting everyone was talking about how borders were closing and a sense of despair and isolation was endemic. Chandra proposed a project along the lines of, ‘fancy collaborating on a song?’ In a further contribution to the Blog, Chandra disclosed her plans,
‘I asked the singers to send me lyrics which I would set to music … the lyrics soon came streaming in. So many vivid statements of how people were feeling during the lock-down period. Some sent one-liners, others just a single word, but gosh those single words were inspirational! It was a song writers dream. I soon set to work writing the melody and arranging it for a four-part choir and piano. A dozen drafts later we had a song!’
This demanded more Zoom time as the choir learnt their individual lines, rehearsed and recorded it. The central theme is courage and friendship, defying the pandemic situation. The moving result entitled, ‘Across the Borders’, was posted on YouTube, where it may still be viewed. But the story didn’t end there.
When I first viewed the video, the sound and thoughts resonated. The link was sent to an online friend, Patti, in America. Patti is part of an internationally renowned Sweet Adelines group called PrimeTime[iii] who are very well known across The Pond. (Sweet Adelines are the female equivalent of Barbershop quartets.) Her response was one of excitement,
‘just now…listened to the recording of “Across the Borders”. I must say, I am absolutely stunned at the brilliance of these lyrics and the arrangement. I’ve followed the authors links and see that she has arranged many pieces, and some of them, in Barbershop!! That is precisely what our … music is all about. I would love to find out if she can turn this beauty into a barbershop arrangement…’
As it happened, Chandra had completed an online course relating to Barber Shop quartets some months before and thought, yes, she could do this for PrimeTime. It wasn’t until she embarked on the transcription that Chandra investigated the group and discovered they are truly world class. She was on the receiving end of a massive compliment. In a very short space of time, Patti and Chandra were in contact and a new version for Sweet Adeline groups was drafted for the PrimeTime quartet. Somewhere along the line, a proposal was made to attempt to coordinate PrimeTime and Felixstowe Harmonies to produce a joint recording. How would that be? Something wonderful.
PrimeTime found it just as difficult to physically meet up in America. But Zoom is now everyone’s friend and eventually after online collaborations and revisions they produced a tingling initial recording. It required tweaking and further adjustments. Chandra’s time was fully engaged. Further alterations were made and then sometime in November 2020, the project expanded to encompass a local Suffolk acapella Group, Stellar Acappella[iv] whilst in America a fourth body of singers, a well-known acappella group, Song of Seattle[v], joined in. They became the Kingdom of United Voices.
The final cut of the collaboration is astonishing and expresses unity, solidarity and great generosity of spirit on the part of everyone involved. The strong message of hope and friendship travelling across the world is pitch perfect. Follow the link and be moved by what can happen when women and music come together:
Could there be a better or more hopeful start to 2021?
If you have any comments or would like to be part of this Trimley St. Martin recording project, please contact me at: