Faces of our Community | Emily Barden

Each month we will be giving you the opportunity to learn more about the faces of our community, in a regular feature sharing the positive work of individuals, charities and organisations.

Faces of our Community will be released at the end of each month, with the Cathedral’s monthly E-Newsletter. For October we are joined by Emily Barden.

Emily is a Songwriter, Singer and Choral Leader. She currently works with a variety of organisations, including Sing Up, Trinity College, BrittenPears Arts and West Sussex Music . Emily also leads several adult community choirs under the umbrella of West Sussex Sings.

She trained at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) gaining a BA (Hons) Music specialising in singing and songwriting.  Emily provides vocal consultancy for schools and vocal groups, alongside running workshops for singers, and composition/song-writing training sessions for teachers and those working with young people. 

Emily Barden

Emily will be delivering a special workshop with West Sussex Music as part of the Museum of the Moon at Chichester Cathedral.

What inspires me and my work? It is really simple. I love people and music.

I really enjoy bringing people together through singing, providing the key to unlocking music and performance to those who don’t yet know how much they like and need it!

So many people come to choir sessions and tell me: “I can’t sing… I was told to mime at schools… I haven’t sung since I was 10… I have a terrible voice…”. These are phrases I hear again and again.

A few sessions into a community choir, surrounded by like-minded people enjoying the power of the human voice together and these narratives start to change. This never fails to make me happy and reminds me why I do what I do. Music is powerful. Music can change people.

Chichester Cathedral has provided many opportunities to create these ‘coming together’ moments, and I’ve been involved for several years in collaborative schools mass-singing projects. Hearing the Cathedral filled with the voices of the future of West Sussex is a truly special thing to be part of. Being part of a positive narrative for people at the start of their singing and musical life is very important to me – I never want to be the reason someone feels they ‘can’t’ sing or make music. We all can.

Music is powerful. Music can change people.

Emily Barden

I feel real sadness for the young people who missed out on musical events and activity due to the pandemic, and am working with educational organisations to try and ensure opportunities can be offered to replace those missed. They are really important in developing a sense of ownership and pride in your voice, whatever it sounds like, and also being part of something bigger than just yourself – a collaboration, listening to each other, a sense of community, seeing how you fit into a bigger picture -  all that can come from singing together.

That awareness and empathy for others is something that carries through life. With empathy and listening comes understanding, and that is when we can really begin to celebrate, trust and value difference and diversity. In 2018 I wrote the Sing Up Day song – an anthem sung on one day across the world to unite through singing. The song was called Be the Change. I think that says it best for me.

Emily Barden


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