Please click on the links below to see and hear Caroline Redman Lusher in the media.
BBC RADIO WEST MIDLANDS
BBC RADIO WEST MIDLANDS
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
TALK RADIO WITH Eamonn Holmes
TALK RADIO WITH Eamonn Holmes
BBC RADIO DEVON
BBC RADIO DEVON
CHRIS EVANS THE BEST BITS
CHRIS EVANS THE BEST BITS
Talk Radio Europe in Spain
Talk Radio Europe in Spain
BBC Radio Jersey
BBC Radio Jersey
CAROLINE & MICHAEL BALL WALK & TALK – BBC PROMS IN THE PARK
CAROLINE & MICHAEL BALL WALK & TALK – BBC PROMS IN THE PARK
BBC RADIO MANCHESTER
BBC RADIO MANCHESTER
BBC RADIO 2 – CHRIS EVANS
BBC RADIO 2 – CHRIS EVANS
THE WIRELESS RADIO
THE WIRELESS RADIO
The Times - Missing Children
The Times - Missing Children
ROCK CHOIR TARGETS MISSING CHILDREN
The face of Madeleine McCann was among more than 10,000 images held up at Wembley to raise awareness of the tens of thousands of children who go missing every year in the UK.
Members of the Rock Choir, a community singing phenomenon that is sweeping the country, filled the London stadium with posters of some of the 100,000 children who go missing each year.
The move comes after Prime Minister David Cameron told Kate and Gerry McCann their ordeal was “every parent’s worst nightmare” as Scotland Yard pledged to lend its “particular expertise” to the search for their daughter.
Madeleine went missing aged three on holiday in Portugal in May 2007.
Caroline Redman Lusher, director of the Rock Choir, said: “If we can help just one missing child be brought home to safety, it will all have been worthwhile.”
Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of Missing People, which helped organise the event, said: “By actively joining the search for missing children, and raising funds for the search to continue, Rock Choir has created a truly innovative partnership.”
SING FROM THE SOUL – HOW THE ROCK CHOIR CHAMPIONS A HARMONIOUS WAY OF LIFE
Caroline Redman Lusher is an award winning musician and singer who founded Rock Choir in 2005. Since the remarkable turnout at its debut session in a local hall, this group has soared in popularity to become the country’s largest contemporary choir. Members based all over the UK meet on a weekly basis to sing their favourite hits, from Adele to One Direction. Caroline has united communities and given confidence to all types of people, regardless of their singing ability. She talks to us about her journey and how Rock Choir has inspired a nation.
TEACHING THE FIRST NOTES
In the 1990s, I worked as a teacher of music and performing arts at Farnborough Sixth Form College. I shared my passion for singing with the students and we often talked about their favourite artists and songs that inspired them. With a lack of contemporary choice on the curriculum, I devised weekly group singing sessions where students could learn to sing the latest hits and songs they loved through unique harmony arrangements that I created.
My aim was to help students develop their musical skills and gain the confidence to pass their singing modules. As a bonus, the sessions provided a lot of fun and respite from everyday lessons. More and more students joined our weekly choir, and not just those studying musical subjects. Rock Choir became a huge success in the college community over the years. I realised that if I could motivate teenagers to sing their hearts out in a choir, there was certainly an opportunity to open the idea up to a wider audience.
In 2005, I left my teaching job to pursue my dream of running Rock Choir full time. I borrowed £1,000 from my father, David, so I could buy some equipment and hire a space. I bought a portable piano, PA system and a head mic, and I placed an advert in a coffee shop in Farnham to hold the Rock Choir in a local hall. On the night, I put out 40 chairs and hoped for the best. When 70 keen amateurs walked through the door, I was delighted. From that point onwards, Rock Choir has grown on a scale that I never imagined was possible. It just goes to show how a simple concept can become something really significant.
One of the best things about Rock Choir is the emotional impact it has on people’s lives. Music is a powerful thing – we are all moved by songs, from their melodies to their lyrics. Through singing, people find inspiration and comfort, and that feeling is magnified in a choir. It is very rousing to hear a variety of voices singing in harmony.
Singing in public is some people’s worst nightmare, but we’ve had a lot of people convert to Rock Choir because it offers new challenges and allows them to break through barriers. Others so desperately want to sing, but feel they can’t or are too shy to sing in front of an audience, however small. Rock Choir has helped people overcome this through its friendly, open-arms approach.
We’ve heard some lovely personal stories from members who describe how singing in Rock Choir has allowed them to overcome issues such as social anxiety and low self-esteem. It also serves as a hobby that lets people express themselves, gaining a sense of freedom and release. Others enjoy simply listening to Rock Choir groups at their local community centres or churches, and find comfort in the easy-listening.
I think these days it’s important for people to feel involved in their communities and inspired by the people around them. Rock Choir provides camaraderie for everyday people.
BRINGING CHOIRS INTO THE MAINSTREAM
We were fortunate enough to have our own documentary series on ITV – ‘The Choir That Rocks’ – which gave us great publicity and provided further opportunities to be televised on popular programmes like The One Show, BBC Breakfast, and The Paul O’Grady Show. Rock Choir has also performed at major events in some of the country’s most prestigious musical venues, including the Royal Albert Hall, the O2 Arena and Wembley Arena. We’ve sung for charities, businesses and variety shows – it’s hugely rewarding having so many opportunities for singers and members to showcase their hard work and passion. Over the years we have raised millions of pounds for local and national charities.
The response from the general public has been phenomenal, and not just from the members. We now have a great following, and an ever-growing audience. What’s great is that many people who hear us perform then want to become members of Rock Choir.
We like to sing songs that evoke emotion or make people feel uplifted – Labi Siffri’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’ and Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ are popular with singers and audiences alike. Singing something with real heart and meaning can be incredibly moving and uplifting. The unique arrangements and effective teaching allows all of us to release everyday stresses and emotions.
CHANGE FOR THE FUTURE
It’s amazing how we’ve grown, especially last year when we had 10,000 new members sign up. Rock Choir now has over 25,000 members singing across 350 locations in the UK, with new clubs forming on a frequent basis. We also hold regular workshops for people who want to improve their singing, available to both members and non-members. I have attracted over 70 talented professionals to lead the choirs and they each uphold the culture and ethos of Rock Choir as originally intended.
Rock Choir is a great place to make new friends, or sing with old ones. It has brought communities together, offering a safe place to socialise and be a part of something. We welcome everyone to the choir, whether you want to have fun or develop as a singer. We also offer free taster sessions for anyone willing to give it a go. There is no obligation to join and no pressure to perform – just relax and enjoy the experience.
I believe challenging oneself and being open to new experiences is incredibly good for the soul, regardless of age or social background.
I feel very lucky to have been a part of this journey and I am proud of all we have achieved so far at Rock Choir. If you have a skill or a passion you want to transform into something bigger, you might be surprised at how many people are eager to share this with you!
As her creation, Rock Choir, hits its teenage years, Farnham-based founder Caroline Redman Lusher shares a few of her favourite things
How did Rock Choir start?
I created the first Rock Choir when I was a teacher to help a small group of students through the music element of their performing arts course. It ended up being 175 strong, with kids from other courses. One of their mums said to me: ‘Can’t you do one for us?’ I handed my notice in, went to my dad and borrowed some money. I needed 180 members to keep the mortgage going, and we just about did it in the October of that year. Then it just went boom. It started in Farnham because that’s where I live, and then Guildford and Godalming. We hear some amazing personal stories – people who have gone through a divorce or bereavement who get support from the friendships and the power of singing, which builds their confidence.
They just have to be brave enough to step through the door. Our current membership nationwide is 27,000. Rock Choir puts everyone in the same boat – they don’t have to sing on their own, audition or read music.
What makes for a good Rock Choir song?
The main ones are the upbeat, feel-good songs. The others are anthemic, about standing proud in the face of adversity. Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre has become the Rock Choir anthem – we sing it everywhere we go.
Was there a song or performance which influenced you to make a career in music?
When I was 10, I was at the Royal Festival Hall performing the violin in an orchestra. As a treat my parents took me to see Starlight Express afterwards. It made me want to sing pop songs. I got my Grade Eight in piano when I was 15, lied about my age and got a job in a nightclub in Birmingham singing and playing piano. My master plan was to be a singer, and everything I did was to help that.
What music do you listen to at home?
I listen to Capital FM and watch all the music channels to keep in touch. I’m looking for well-crafted pop songs. I like Jess Glynne, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. I’m a big fan of Magic FM – nine out of 10 songs they play we have done in Rock Choir because they are good heart-warming songs.
What was the last film you watched?
I watched A Royal Night Out at the weekend on DVD. It was really sweet – the last scene when the future queen is driving herself back to the palace with a huge smile on her face after joining in the VE Day celebrations is amazing. I hope it’s true. Last year 40 of us did a mass trip to the cinema to see the film Sing. We took over the cinema, and were singing along to the songs.
What do you like to read?
Historical novels are my go-to book – if I have a holiday that’s when I sit and read. I’m into Philippa Gregory. A friend of mine is always chucking new books at me.
What book do you like to give as a present?
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. If you give out the right vibe and energy to the universe everything is available if you have the right attitude.
What was the last live theatre you saw?
I go to so many Rock Choir events and flash mobs – they are street theatre.
What does the future hold for Rock Choir?
We have lots of things we can’t talk about – we’ve got a huge event at the end of the summer with the BBC but the line up hasn’t been announced yet. I’m going to have to ask 27,000 people to keep a secret! We have also been invited to take Rock Choir worldwide. Rock Choir has continued to grow – we want it so that people in the UK are never more than 15 miles away from a choir.
THE GUILDFORD MAGAZINE
THE GUILDFORD MAGAZINE
PITCH PERFECT – MEET THE FOUNDER OF ROCK CHOIR CAROLINE REDMAN LUSHER
FEATURED IN GUILDFORD, GODALMING AND FARNHAM MAGAZINE
What began with 15 students standing round a piano at lunchtime has grown into a national phenomenon. Jane McGowan catches up with Rock Choir founder Caroline Redman Lusher.
Caroline Redman Lusher is the founder of the hugely successful Rock Choir movement. Her belief in the capacity of song to unite and enthuse people has landed her a slot in the Smith & Williamson Power 100, which celebrates those who champion British entrepreneurship.
And as I cast my eyes around Farnham’s busy Packhouse in search of this go-getter, I am suddenly overcome by a smiling brunette who thanks me profusely for coming out to meet her, before hugging me like a long-lost friend.
Rock Choir can only be described as a phenomenon. Launched in 2005 in a hall at Farnham College, it has grown into a nationwide business with more than 25,000 people singing in more than 350 choirs.
“Me and my dad were setting chairs out and wondering if anyone would turn up. Then all these people arrived and it was just like a movie moment,” recalls Caroline with pride. “I was nervous, they were nervous, but we got through a song in 90 minutes and by the end people were cheering and crying.”
Music has always been Caroline’s passion. After university she made a living singing and playing piano in some of London’s top hotels, including The Dorchester and the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. But years of late nights and smoky lounges began to take their toll and Caroline decided to move out of London to be closer to her parents in Farnham.
“They suggested that I got a job teaching,” she explains. “I found a post at Farnborough College, teaching performing arts.
“The students were a mix of actors and dancers, not necessarily musicians, but they had to sing to pass all of the modules. I decided I would get them round the piano, like I used to do in the bars. Then I broke some pop songs down into three basic parts and I sang a line, and they sang it back to me.”
Soon Caroline’s singalongs were drawing attention from the wider college. What had started as an A Level module became 150 teenagers belting out tunes during the lunch break. Caroline made it clear that they didn’t need to be able to read music in order to join. Nor would they be asked to sing solo – principles that would endure as the basis of the Rock Choir model.
“Other teachers started telling me how much more productive students were after they had been singing. And on parents’ evening people were saying how much more communicative their child had become since joining the group. Then one of the mums asked: ‘Can’t you do one for us?’ And there it was – the start of Rock Choir.”
Many people would have let the idea roll around in their head for a few weeks and then allow it to fizzle out. Not Caroline. She realised she had hit upon something and decided to act.
“I quit my job and, with the help of my dad – who became known as Captain Rock Choir, as he’s an ex-BA pilot – set out on the journey.
“It was a lovely, creative time. So exciting to be starting something new, with no fixed plans but with very clear values: to teach singing and to offer something to the community that could have the same impact as it had made on the students.”
Indeed, it is the fact that it’s so much of a community endeavour, engendering friendships and self- confidence in a relaxed setting, that really sets Rock Choir apart.
“Even on that very first night people had stories to tell: they were too shy to sing in public; they hadn’t sung for 40 years after being told they were rubbish by a choirmaster; they sang in the car but their children told them to be quiet.
“That’s why there have always been two aspects to Rock Choir: the music, getting people to immerse themselves in it; and then the platform it creates for social bonding. Lives are changing because of the singing, which is what really unites us.”
From that one class, Rock Choir grew initially to a handful throughout Surrey.
Now, some 12 years later, it has a base in over 350 UK towns as far apart as Aberdeen and St Austell, Cornwall. Some areas have multiple sessions, with many forced to keep waiting lists, such is the demand.
Yet unusually for such a brand, Rock Choir is not franchised out. “I just didn’t want to,” says Caroline. “I didn’t want the choirs to feel like they were in competition. I look after the leaders’ wellbeing. If they’re not okay, how can they look after the members?”
As well as arranging the music, recording the songs and choreographing the dance routines, Caroline picks the choir leaders too. Three times a year they descend on the Premier Inn in Aldershot to learn the new songs for their respective groups.
“It’s chaos, and there’s a lot of singing, but we’ve never had a complaint from the hotel yet,” she laughs. “I choose people I think the members will love and who have a good work ethic. It’s a vocation for us. I am not interested in someone who just wants to clock in and clock out. You’re not just teaching them; you’re inspiring them.
And despite the accolades, awards, sold-out gigs at Wembley and the O2, and even a prime-time ITV documentary devoted to her achievements, the 42-year- old admits that at times, such huge undertaking commitment can be “exhausting”. But she is quick to point out that just one kind word or email from one of the members is enough to remind her why she does what she does.
“I went to one event last year in Bournemouth, and as each member went on stage they either high-fived me or hugged me and told me that they loved me,” she says with genuine warmth.
Indeed, one’s abiding impression of Caroline is of strength and positivity. “I remember looking round at the O2 with the stage and arena full and thinking: ‘How weird is this?’ You get those moments of pride, yet I don’t feel responsible. It was just meant to be like this. We’re all in it together and we’re willing it to get better and better. That’s partly why I don’t see this as a business. For me it’s a way of life.”
THE BOTTOM ONLINE
THE BOTTOM ONLINE
LOCAL ENTREPRENEUR SHORT-LISTED FOR NATIONAL BUSINESS AWARD
Caroline Redman Lusher, founder and director of Farnham based Rock Choir, the nationwide family of contemporary choirs, has been short-listed for a National Business Award.
Over 150 of Britain’s leading businesses and business leaders have been revealed by the National Business Awards, in partnership with Orange, as finalists in the awards programme. Other rganisations short-listed businesses include a range of private, public and third sector companies, among them being National Grid, Marks and Spencer and London Early Years Foundation.
In their announcement the judges noted that: “Caroline Redman Lusher’s Rock Choir is sensational and uplifting; demonstrating great customer engagement and excellent community spirit.”
The award finalists collectively turnover in excess of £135 billion per year and employ over 700,000 people across the UK.
The awards cover activities as diverse as digital marketing, international road haulage and logistics, water engineering and life sciences. The diverse size of the companies entering is also huge – ranging from a business with an annual turnover of less than £50k to high growth and high value companies with multi- billion pound revenues. The finalists were chosen from the hundreds of businesses that entered or were nominated for the prestigious titles. They will now prepare to be filmed, or make presentations in person at London’s iconic Gherkin, in front of expert juries who will decide the category winners, which will be announced at the awards ceremony on 13th November in London.
Baroness Virginia Bottomley, former Member of Parliament for South West Surrey and the Chair of Judges said: “This year has been a challenging environment for British businesses: these finalists demonstrate how companies are succeeding in the current climate through innovation, originality and tenacity. It’s good to see a broad range of companies both in sector and size – an impressive representation of the potential British businesses have. Congratulations to all our finalists.”
Alex Evans, Programme Director of the National Business Awards said: “This year’s finalists paint a picture of the new landscape of business. Organisations of all shapes and sizes have realised the value of talent; developing the internal entrepreneurs who will create and sustain growth and nurturing a collaborative and creative culture to drive the innovation needed to compete for, and keep, customers at home and abroad.”
A full list of finalists can be viewed at: www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk along with details of how to book a table at the awards event itself.
For more information on Rock Choir, visit: www.rockchoir.com.
THE NEXT WOMAN
THE NEXT WOMAN
CAROLINE REDMAN LUSHER ON FOUNDING THE WORLD’S LARGEST CONTEMPORARY CHOIR
Caroline Redman Lusher is the Founder & Director of Rock Choir, Britain’s biggest contemporary choir, which she founded in 2005 with the simple intention of encouraging people to sing.
From its humble beginnings – weekly singing lessons around the piano for students – Rock Choir has become a true phenomenon. It currently boasts 17,000 members in some 200 towns up and down the UK, several entries in the Guinness Book of World Records, and the dedication of 55 Rock Choir leaders, all music graduates, who are trained by Caroline to teach the Rock Choir repertoire in their local communities.
Through her creativity and inspirational leadership, Caroline has been nominated for a number of awards; in 2009 she was invited to the Women of the Year Lunch; in 2010 she was a finalist in the Orange Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year and for the Institute of Directors Special Chairman’s Award for excellence in leadership. Last year she was shortlisted for the NatWest Everywoman Awards.
Caroline personally oversees every aspect of her business which includes the musical arranging and choreographing of each song in the Rock Choir repertoire. Choir members are not required to audition nor to read music and they learn to sing Caroline’s arrangements of great pop songs by her favourite singers such as Annie Lennox, Adele, Robbie Williams, Phil Collins, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin.
In 2009, after some high profile television appearances, Rock Choir were snapped up by Universal Music who released ‘Rock Choir Volume 1’ featuring Caroline as solo vocalist with 1,000 Rock Choir members. The album entered the UK mid-week chart at No.
5 and Rock Choir won its first Guinness World Record for The Largest Musical Act to Release an Album (Signed).
In 2011, Caroline and Rock Choir were the subject of a hugely popular ITV documentary series, ‘The Choir That Rocks’ which followed Caroline as she led 8,000 Rock Choir members through their paces and onto a Guinness World Record concert at Wembley Arena.
Caroline is a popular speaker at corporate events, educational workshops and business conferences. She has designed a way of combining music and song in her team building workshops which she has run for companies such as Virgin Money, Proctor & Gamble and Santander.
Caroline and Rock Choir have also helped to raise tens of thousands of pounds for various charities. In 2011 alone, over £350,000 was raised by Rock Choir for National and local charities through events, performances and appearances.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Rock Choir and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
CRL: I came up with the idea for Rock Choir whilst teaching A-level performing Arts and Music at Farnborough College. I started there in 2001 and found that the students needed to pass their music module but couldn’t read music and were shy about singing on their own. I developed a weekly lunchtime activity where I would break down feel-good pop songs into 3 part harmony and teach the group by rote from the piano. I then introduced basic choreographed routines and developed the group into a confident singing and dancing contemporary choir.
What I hadn’t planned for was the huge increase in confidence and improvement in their grades in other subjects. Even their parents at parents’ evening wanted to discuss the social changes in their children because of the choir.
They were happy and excited and we all looked forward to our weekly singing session. By 2005, the student numbers in the choir had increased to over 170 and we were travelling the country and Europe performing in what I can only describe as a unique glamorous contemporary choir. Finally, the parents came to me asking for a choir for them! Running the weekly choir was my high each week too – the friendship, fun and bonding was so extreme that the concept of doing it every day was reason enough to quit my job and develop it. Then of course – there was the question that if the 16-18 year old students were gaining so much in terms of well-being – what could I do for adults? So I handed in my notice and created Rock Choir.
I borrowed £1000 from my father and bought the gear I needed and had posters made up for the local coffee shop in Farnham.
In September 2005 I started Rock Choir officially and put out 40 chairs in a local rehearsal room. 70 people arrived; all adults from different walks of life and all with little or no music or singing experience. We had a blast!!!
Everyone was up on their feet singing their hearts out – it was like a party – but very organised and educational! Word soon spread and I was asked to create Rock Choir for all the local nearby towns. I didn’t market what I was doing at all – the members were all on a high about Rock Choir and wanting everyone they knew to be part of it and get happy! It was a traditional case of word-of-mouth! After 3 years of fun, exhilaration and a steep learning curve in terms of making the logistics work, I was being asked for Rock Choir further afield and across the country so I took on my first Rock Choir Leader, Sam. We spent a year analysing what made Rock Choir so popular with her shadowing my every move. She was the first Rock Choir Leader and now I have 57 in the team all teaching Rock Choir in their local communities. I managed to turn the reality of a brand new concept into a unique National organisation and a few months ago was honoured for my contribution to British Music. There are now thousands of people enjoying the fun and well-being benefits of Rock Choir just like the original students did back in 2001.
TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?
CRL: I wanted to create a dream team that protected the original ethos of Rock Choir – which was to do good and look after people. I look for key personality traits along with the high standard of musicianship and education which is a must for the role of the Rock Choir Leader. The successful candidates who apply to be a member of the Rock Choir team have a positive, can-do, nothing-is-too- much-trouble approach. They understand the bigger picture and that Rock Choir is a team effort. They have a caring and sensitive approach to the members and are perceptive and good at communicating.
The Rock Choir members are precious to me and I only want genuine individuals teaching them – I’ve made a few mistakes over the years and have had the painful experiences of letting the odd individual go from the team but it usually becomes very clear if someone comes in who has an agenda or isn’t able to put others before themselves. It’s important everyone works together – shares ideas and techniques and commits to Rock Choir for the good that it’s doing to the general public.
TNW: Who are your customers and partners now?
CRL: The Rock Choir members are our ‘customers’ however we tend to view them and treat them like they are part of a family rather than see it all as a commercial set up. We attract old and young- mostly with no musical experience and 99% are individuals who have never been in a choir before.
Most of our members are women – we didn’t intend it to be a female choir and although some men do join we do attract mostly women. Our oldest member is 92 and our youngest is 10.
In general though, it’s mostly women aged between 20 and 70. A lot of new members brave the first free taster session of Rock Choir on their own but quickly make friends during the first session. ‘Old’ members are informed of new members and asked to accommodate and take care of anyone looking nervous when they walk in. The social like is hugely important and we are always planning nights out and events. The members tend to meet up outside the rehearsals and make their own social plans. Some members report back that Rock Choir has made them less shy and they don’t feel isolated anymore! Rock Choir has become a multi-layered experience – not just a glamorous choir to sing in each week.
TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?
CRL: Rock Choir is unorthodox and has created its own market – it was the first contemporary choir in the country and we have led the way in terms of this type of activity. We have become a recognised brand but known for changing lives at the same time. I believe that the movement Rock Choir has created and the good its doing are the reasons why the media has been so interested and supportive.
I signed a record deal with Universal in 2009 and we released two top-twenty albums in 2010 and 2011. We’ve won three Guinness World Records and these kind of achievements don’t go unnoticed by the media. Rock Choir gained so much attention with the album releases that we were invited to perform on The Paul O’Grady Show, The One Show, BBC Breakfast and various other daytime TV shows. It really caught the imagination of the public and the membership numbers soared.
The members had a ball! Imagine for example, a 48 year old mother of three appearing on the One Show with Will Smith! Who could have imagined that!?
In 2011, ITV filmed a 3-hour, 3-part documentary called The Choir That Rocks which was aired after Coronation Street over 3 weeks. Our website crashed moments after the first episode began and we had to radically find ways of coping with extreme attention both online and on air with interviews and magazines. In terms of marketing – this was the biggest campaign we have coped with. However – we would have experienced all of these moments for fun anyway – with or without the attention. I feel lucky though – that journalists and broadcasters have been so positive and supportive towards me and Rock Choir. Many of them have joined Rock Choir since!
TNW: What is next for your company?
CRL: I am about to put together a board to help support me and the future of Rock Choir. It’s the natural time to do this after 8 years of establishing it. I now have some very knowledgeable and supportive individuals around me who want to get more involved.
I’d like to take the powers of Rock Choir abroad – as we are being asked by other countries to set up the experience for them. Politicians from Norway, for example, have asked if I will make their “people happy!”.
I’d like to take the powers of Rock Choir abroad – as we are being asked by other countries to set up the experience for them. Politicians from Norway, for example, have asked if I will make their “people happy!”. I’ve never pretended that I’m a business person and I often fight the label that people have given me. I’m a trained musician and a professional singer and I particularly love teaching. – I simply make day to day decisions based on the welfare of the Rock Choir members. They come first and always will do. However, taking Rock Choir to new territories will need some serious planning and I’m grateful I have experienced people waiting to help me.
TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?
CRL: I’m often awake through the night. When we are particularly busy it’s a real issue for me and many a time I’ve worked my way through herbal sleep aids. I mainly worry about the people around me and in the choir. Trying to look after a team of nearly 80 people and then a choir of 17,000 creates issues and anxieties and I struggle to walk away from any problem big or small. I feel responsible for everyone.
Trying to look after a team of nearly 80 people and then a choir of 17,000 creates issues and anxieties and I struggle to walk away from any problem big or small. I feel responsible for everyone.
I’ve learnt to delegate as much as possible and I have a very clever CEO now who deals with day to day issues as much as possible. I also have a wonderful PA who is a real gem. However, even 1 letter or email from an unhappy member causes me worry. I suppose it’s because I built Rock Choir and I want everyone to understand what it is – that it’s safe and above-board and that everything I do is for them – the members.
TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?
CRL: I’ve learnt a huge amount since Rock Choir began in 2005, both personally and in business. I’ve been lucky enough to experience working with a multitude of people and have experienced a giant learning curve in creating a choir of 70 people to one of 17,000 – The largest contemporary choir in the world. I’ve learnt to delegate. I’ve learnt that ALL people NEED attention, care and LOVE. I’ve learnt that anything can be achieved if I want to achieve it. I’ve learnt that consolidation is sometimes a good period to move into and always keeping my foot on the accelerator realistic. I’ve learnt that people can be jealous and desperate and these negative traits lead to nothing but loss and pain. I’ve learnt to toughen up – and make difficult decisions. I’ve learnt to take time off. I’ve learnt that I am ferociously driven and I need change and to be making plans in order to satisfy my needs.
My outlook on life has changed – I’m wiser now. I’ve learnt that one kind word or gesture makes a massive difference. I’ve learnt that this is what I was meant to do in life and I intend to continue making a difference.
TNW: Do you have any pet projects as an entrepreneur?
CRL: I want to create The Rock Choir Foundation – which will help those unable to afford to pay the Rock Choir membership to take part across the UK and benefit like our members do. In 2012, as a team, Rock Choir helped raised just under £1 million. This supported hundreds of local and national charities. Im hoping we can find a way of introducing the experience we offer to various groups of people to help integrate them successfully into Rock Choir so we can all help each other and make a difference. The knock on effect of Rock Choir has created more productivity in the workplace and more positive relationships at home. I want to try and offer the opportunity to everyone.
TNW: How has your team building expertise helped you to run your own business?
CRL: Understanding character – the strengths – the weaknesses and how people behave under pressure all add to the knowledge needed to create a successful team. General people behaviour and handling people’s emotions help too. Listening, watching and understanding your team are key attributes to build in yourself as a manager and sometimes only experience can create these.
Sometimes, people just need a chance to shine. I’ve often given someone responsibility when they’ve been flagging – and they’ve risen to the challenge and felt proud and important.
They’ve taken ownership and felt that they are valued. Inspiring my team is important. The office team at Rock Choir HQ is often troubleshooting and dealing with large logistical projects that can become disheartening and it’s important that they need to rebalance and know that what we do IS effective and positive and brilliant. I try and stay with the team as much as possible and be around them to help keep them motivated and cared for. Sometimes they stay til 9pm/10pm at night to make sure a deadline is met which is way beyond their remit. However I often talk to them all about the economic crisis we are in and how important it is that we work harder than ever before to make sure our members are happy as possible and that we are delivering an excellent service.
CAROLINE REDMAN LUSHER – ROCK STAR
She was working out of her garden shed 18 months ago. Now Caroline Redman Lusher is the businesswoman behind one of Britain’s biggest brands. Here, she reveals how her Rock Choir has been the making and almost breaking of her.
With a business built firmly on helping people fit in, Caroline Redman Lusher found it funny recently to discover that she, in fact, does not.
The entrepreneur and businesswoman behind Rock Choir, the chain of 132 choirs with 8,000 members nationwide, which was the subject of ITV’s four-part documentary The Choir That Rocks in June, just doesn’t fit the criteria.
Take the numerous awards she’s been nominated for recently – including Entrepreneur of the Year at the Orange Business Awards. “The judging panel have been going ‘wow!’ but I never win. It’s not your normal business, it’s not about the money, turnover, profits and percentages. We just don’t fit the standard model,” says the 37-year-old, tucking her long legs under a table at the Kensington Roof Gardens hotel (she’s almost six feet tall).
‘Fit’ is something she’s struggled with since setting up Rock Choir in 2005 – though ‘struggle’ is not a word many would associate with it. Today Rock Choir is not only a successful business but a UK phenomenon. It invites everyone, regardless of individual talent, to join their local choir and have fun ‘rocking out’ a variety of pop songs each week.
The outcome has been anything but amateur though. Over the past six years, Rock Choir has grown to become a truly professional act – playing Wembley, the Hammersmith Apollo and even releasing two albums over the past year.
Redman Lusher is the driving force behind all this – choosing the songs, working out the arrangements and overseeing the choir’s expansion. But that’s just for starters. Last year, when the business’s money was tied up in a variety of local theatre bookings, she sold her house in order to finance them playing their biggest venue yet – Wembley.
“The lack of sleep, the emotional issues, no time to step back and look at it… Something has to change” It was the big question The Choir That Rocks hinged on – would she fill the 10,500 seats with Rock Choir members’ friends and families or risk the financial fall out? She achieved it – but far more interesting were the stories the documentary told of her members. They spoke of the organisation giving them a new lease of life, that they felt happier and healthier taking part in the singing sessions each week and that Wembley had been a goal to work towards.
Doing a TV programme was a scary experience for Redman Lusher though. “Everyone wants to put Rock Choir into their own box,” she explains. “What I’m trying to create is a lovely, welcoming and warm environment for people. For a TV show, their agenda is ratings. So, with no editorial control at all, were they going to wreck the six years I spent building that?”
In fact, they did the opposite. After the first episode, 23,000 people logged onto their website, crashing the server, and 8,000 people emailed with membership inquiries. With Rock Choir’s new season about to start next month, the number of choirs has risen to 200 thanks to thousands more members signing up. If the programme showed the joy of taking part though, it didn’t cover how much work goes on behind the scenes to pull something like this off. “There’s a perception that we’re a massive commercial set-up to have done what we’ve done,” she reveals, “but it’s not like that at all.”
In fact, until 18 months ago, Rock Choir was run from Redman Lusher’s shed. Today, they have rented premises and a close-knit team of seven (four full-time, three part-time), which includes her father (accounts) and husband (recruitment and training). And life is more hectic than ever.
“I keep thinking it will calm down, but it’s actually gotten bigger and bigger. We say ‘Well, we don’t know how long it will last, so we should just take advantage of everything’. But it has got quite serious. The lack of sleep, the emotional issues, no time to step back and look at it. There’s no time to even just go out for dinner and not talk about Rock Choir,” she admits.
Redman Lusher couldn’t and wouldn’t step away from it now though. She says that every entrepreneur understands her dilemma. But there’s much more to this than just business. Because, while she may be making the dreams of her choir members come true with sell-out concerts and album deals, she’s also achieving her own dream at the same time.
Growing up in Solihull, she could have walked into a job at BA given her father was a chief pilot there, her mother worked on check-in and her sister is cabin crew. But she only ever wanted to be a pop singer. By 15, she had achieved Grade 8 on the piano and violin, going on to gain a music degree from Salford University before moving to London at age 21 to ‘make it’.
She lasted there four years. Working as a resident lounge singer at the Hyde Park Hotel amongst other establishments, she found the experience ‘lonely and isolating’. So when her father visited and couldn’t hide his shock at how unhappy she was, she took his advice and left.
Joining her parents who had moved to Farnham in Surrey, she took a job locally as a music teacher. “I had to go through a big process when I left London, being very depressed about it. I thought ‘I am not the kind of person who fails…’” It’s ironic then that, stepping away from her own singing dream, would make them come true. Because it was there that she discovered her love of choir directing, and where the seeds for her Rock Choir were sown.
Fast forward ten years, and Redman Lusher admits she’s now at a cross roads. Having put her life and soul into the company, and delighted in her members’ growing happiness and wellbeing, her own health has seriously suffered.
By Barbara Walshe
“There’s a perception that we’re a massive commercial set up but we’re not like that at all”
A jaw infection from overwork and stress has resulted in frequent emergency hospital stints in recent years. Meanwhile, working with her family means Rock Choir is a constant topic of conversation, and it’s the same when she goes home to her husband at night. “It’s a disaster from a personal point of view,” she admits. “Something has to change.”
She has just hired 12 choir leaders to join the 22 she currently has. And she has her fingers crossed that the uplift in membership following the ITV programme will pay for the additional back office support that is now crucial.
But when that happens, will Redman Lusher take it any easier? She’s already planned the next two years of Rock Choir, which will see them put on even bigger and bolder events. She also has a solo album and book deal on the table, and is even in talks about taking the concept overseas.
She says that having Rock Choir perform at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony would be the ultimate. But I’m not entirely convinced. Regardless of the time and stress involved, there will always be another ‘ultimate’ challenge for Caroline Redman Lusher because she thrives on it. And, for that, for choir members are grateful.
Find out more about Rock Choir by calling 01252 714276 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
By Barbara Walshe
© Copyright Coutts 2012.
ENVY DOES FULL POST ON THE CHOIR THAT ROCKS FOR ITV
ENVY has done the full post on a brand new series for 10 Star Entertainment called The Choir That Rocks. It’s a new entertainment documentary series for ITV1 about Rock Choir, the musical phenomenon that is sweeping across Britain.
This exciting social network of amateur rock stars has been bringing a new lease of life to communities across the country, thanks to its all-inclusive no audition invitations for everyone to join no matter what their ability or background. The series follows Rock Choir’s dynamic founder Caroline Redman Lusher, and tells the real stories of its members – people who have found Rock Choir a stress-busting inspiration that has given them life-changing experiences they never thought possible.
Full of entertaining characters and heart-warming stories, THE CHOIR THAT ROCKS is a series about real people and real lives.
ENVY’s Senior Dubbing Mixer Matt Skilton had the challenge of blending the studio recordings of the choir with the location sound to give the overall soundtrack some depth and richness.
Senior Grader: Paul Fallon Senior Editor: Andrew Mitchell Audio: Matt Skilton
Series Producer: Alannah Richardson
Series Director: John Featherstone Producer/Directors: Lucy Shepherd and Steve Jones Executive Producers: Bea Ballard and Rachael Parker
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
A UK CRESCENDO OF CHOIRS
Choral singing’s profile has never been higher, thanks to Glee. But if there’s fun to be had in choirs, there’s money, too, writes Caroline Sullivan.
‘Let’s see you smile!” says the woman at the head of the room. Surveying the faces in front of her, she switches to a mildly cajoling tone. “You’ll enjoy it a lot more if you use your face to express this routine.” Nearly 180 people, some clearly bashful about expressing things facially, do their best to comply. As the melody of the Chaka Khan hit I’m Every Woman fills the room, the now-smiling group comes in right on cue: “I’m every woman, it’s all in me/ Anything you want done, baby, I’ll do it naturally.” It’s a frosty Wednesday night in Guildford, and another session of Rock Choir is underway.
“Step and turn!” the woman directs. Everyone steps and turns, still singing. Divided into sopranos, altos and basses (the last group comprises the 20 or so men in the room), they work the song over with gusto, sounding more professional than you’d expect from accountants and firefighters and stay-at-home mums. They’re striving to get I’m Every Woman right because they’ll be performing it, along with a handful of other painstakingly rehearsed pop and Motown standards (the one genre Rock Choir doesn’t perform is rock), at a local gig in December. Rock Choir’s shows are reputed to have a Mamma Mia! effect on audiences, compelling them to sing and dance along with the choir. Apparently, it’s the effect of all those voices – what Decca Records A&R manager Tom Lewis, who signed Rock Choir last year, calls “that massed emotion of a big choir – hundreds of people singing with joy energises the senses and makes you feel better”.
Thanks to the hit US TV series Glee, choral singing has never had a higher profile, but choirs have been a significant niche moneymaker for the music industry for years. If you’ve ever seen ads for the likes of the Fron Male Voice Choir, the Monks or Only Men Aloud and wondered if anyone actually buys their records, the answer is: yes, in their millions. Enough, anyway, for Lewis to declare choirs to be “important” to Decca. They’ve all sold a substantial number of albums: both the Denbighshire-based Fron and the Monks (a group of Cistercians from a monastery near Vienna) have shifted more than a million albums, and Only Men Aloud (winners of the BBC talent series Last Choir Standing) went platinum.
Dave Jones, chairman of perhaps the most commercially successful British choir, the Fron – whose four albums have sold a total of 1.1m copies in the UK – has an explanation for his 64-year-old ensemble’s popularity. “It’s something that’s away from the hype of boybands – the Fron is like an everyday choir, almost like the Archers of singing. Most of us have jobs as well.” He works as a prison officer in Shrewsbury, and he could be right; there’s a homely quality about the Fron that makes the impact of their 71 massed voices deeply moving, and all the more so when they sing in Welsh. Jones didn’t hear the Fron till he was 19, in 1968, despite his dad being a member (“I rebelled when I was a teenager and formed a rock group”), but he was converted when he caught them singing a Welsh hymn one night. “They made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. To my eternal shame, I never told my dad I’d heard them,” Jones says. Nevertheless, he didn’t actually join the Fron until the early 90s
Rock Choir’s own album, recorded with around 1,000 members from several of the 139 Rock Choirs around the UK and released in July, was less successful than the Fron have been (“It didn’t connect in such a broad way,” Lewis admits. “But it is powerful. What we saw in them is a phenomenon, and we wanted to bottle it. It got into the top 20, but maybe the selling point isn’t distinctive enough”), but at least the label didn’t lose the pile of money that disappears when rock albums flop. Choirs don’t require the financial investment that rock acts do; most have been around for many years, and need little tweaking before they’re ushered into a recording studio.
The Guildford branch of Rock Choir, which meets every week at a sixth-form college in the Surrey town, is one of the largest of the Rock Choirs in 89 cities across the UK. The whole enterprise is run by Caroline Redman Lusher, a former secondary-school music teacher from nearby Farnham, whose “eureka” moment happened when she realised people who enjoy singing but aren’t of professional standard would welcome the chance to do it with others. She started a choir that accepted anyone, regardless of musical ability, and the idea took off almost immediately. That was five years ago; today, there are 6,896 members, all of them amateurs and each paying £300 for 30 sessions a year. (Most, she says, can actually sing pretty well, but even those who can’t can join.) Fittingly, she’s been nominated for entrepreneur of the year at next month’s National Business awards: the economy may be in a tailspin, but Rock Choir seems to be recession-proof.
Redman Lusher would be easy to identify at the rehearsal even if she weren’t standing behind a keyboard at the head of the room: she exudes metropolitan glamour (sleek dark hair, well-cut jumper and jeans), and is the only person here not wearing a black- and-yellow Rock Choir T-shirt. Members seem a tad starstruck by her, listening intently as she demonstrates the way she wants a line sung – her own voice got her a professional career as a lounge singer for a few years in the 90s – and chuckling appreciatively when she tells little jokes. “When I miss a rehearsal, I really feel it. I miss them,” she says. She still leads eight groups herself; the other 131 are in the charge of local musicians trained by her.
Why has her venture – which, let’s face it, is just people singing pop songs – been so successful? “Singing makes you feel good about yourself and it builds confidence,” she says. “They’re amateurs coming together and achieving something extraordinary. People used to get together in church and sing together, and we don’t do that now. We watch The X Factor at home; we stay home to be entertained rather than going out and doing it.”
Rock Choir, she says with zeal, “brings people together, and we make it so inclusive that we have a stockbroker standing next to a young mum standing next to someone who works at Marks & Spencer. When Glee started, I got a lot of journalists ringing up asking for comments, and some asked why we don’t have anything like it in the UK. I said, ‘But we have Rock Choir!’” The difference, though, is that Glee currently has the power to influence the charts simply by releasing covers of old hits such as Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ – a song not currently in the Choir repertoire, by the way.
Rock Choir has spawned copycats such as Pop Choir and, intriguingly, Punk Choir, but Redman Lusher’s creation is the only one that’s got a record deal and has played both the Royal Albert Hall (supporting the Soldiers, a trio of balladeering army officers) and this year’s Guilfest, where they shared the bill with the likes of the Canadian hardcore punk outfit Fucked Up. “Some people see it as a business,” she says dismissively of the imitators. “But I don’t. People add up the membership and think I take home all that money, but I have 30 or 40 people working for us and we pay for music licenses and VAT and taxes.”
Similarly, for the monks of the Stift Heiligenkreuz abbey in Austria, profit hasn’t been the objective. The money they’ve made from selling 1.2m copies of their 2008 album of Gregorian chant, Chant: Music for Paradise – which reached No 7 in the UK album chart – has been earmarked for projects abroad. “The money was not so much – people think we’re rich like Madonna,” says the jovial Father Karl Wallner, whose duties as their spokesman allow him to own a mobile phone. “We got 42p per CD, and we need all the money because we have a lot of Cistercians in the third world.”
The Stift order are remarkably integrated into the modern world, with a Facebook page and a YouTube channel (“every day there’s a new clip”), yet the appeal of their album is its timelessness. Gregorian chant enables listeners, Wallner says, to “hear something of God”. He recalls standing on Oxford Street in central London, being interviewed over the phone by the Sun, “and when I was talking I could watch the people passing by, and I didn’t see one happy face. They had all the things you could buy with money, but they had something not happy in their faces. Here is a reason why our music is so popular – I think people are longing for some other kind of happiness.”
Like Redman Lusher, he sees choirs as answering a need for companionship, for both singers and listeners. “Everybody in his heart has the desire to be united. To be single is to live in Guantánamo, to be isolated by from happiness. Everybody knows he is only happy when he is in harmony.”
Or, as Redman Lusher succinctly puts it: “There’s joy in the sound of the human voice coming together.”
MOVE OVER, GLEE! IT STARTED AS A BIT OF FUN, NOW ROCK CHOIR COULD BE SET TO OPEN THE 2012 OLYMPICS
It started in a garden shed in Surrey – now thousands of ordinary women are on course to become a nationwide phenomenon.
An extraordinary thing has happened in the music industry. An album released by a bunch of nobodies – 987 nobodies, to be precise – has entered the charts.
This is Rock Choir: the massed voices of housewives, supermarket check-out girls, grannies, students… anyone who wants to sing – even if they’re tone-deaf.
Together they belt out the soundtrack of our lives – pop, gospel and Motown hits going back to the 1960s, kicking off with a finger-snapping version of You Can’t Hurry Love.
Talking about the phenomenon on his Radio 2 show, Chris Evans said, ‘Music industry records are set to be smashed.’
Pundits everywhere are scratching their heads and asking, ‘What is Rock Choir? And how have these nobodies pulled it off?’
The woman behind it all laughs her husky laugh and says, ‘People think we’re some big, glamorous operation, but there are just four of us organising everything from my garden shed in Farnham, Surrey. I’m not driving a Porsche or anything.’
Perhaps she should be. Thanks to the vision, charisma and sheer hard slog of 36-year-old Caroline Redman Lusher, there are currently 200 Rock Choirs nationwide, with some 5,000 members.
If there isn’t a Rock Choir operating near you now, there will be soon. Do you want to sing at the opening of the Olympics? Then sign up – chances are they will be there, singing their hearts out to a standing ovation.
The album – their first – is fun, a bit raw in parts, but undeniably feelgood and infectious. What it can’t give you is the spectacle. To take part in Britain’s biggest choral movement, or to be part of an audience, is a visceral experience, as hundreds of ordinary voices blend to produce one extraordinary wall of sound.
The songs are upbeat, yet audiences leave wiping away a tear. Members find themselves teary-eyed at rehearsal, as 150 right arms are raised as one and fingers start clicking on the offbeat to, let’s say, Amy Winehouse’s Valerie. The elation generated, says its founder, can be life changing.
Caroline is a force to be reckoned with. She is obsessive, a perfectionist and driven, but she’s also warm and nurturing.
‘It’s not just about singing,’ she says, ‘it’s about emotional wellbeing, making people feel good.’
‘When you leave after a rehearsal, you’re grinning. You sing in the car. You can’t sleep. I do a morning session and the whole day feels amazing’
Men love her too, especially those waiting at home for their Rock Choir wives (96 per cent of members are female). ‘They tell me that their wife is a different person since she joined,’ says Caroline. ‘They say she’s alive again, confident; she’s lost weight, she’s buzzing.’
There’s more than a touch of the evangelical to Rock Choir’s high-energy rehearsals, and members can have a fervour akin to born-again Christians.
‘When you leave after a rehearsal, you’re grinning,’ says Jan Glynn, 41, a member of the Guildford choir. ‘You sing in the car. You can’t sleep. I do a morning session and the whole day feels amazing.’
Choirs are enjoying a renaissance. In the City, choral societies attached to banks are seeing numbers swell, even as employees are shed. Singing is cheap, sociable, and clinically proven to relieve stress. Caroline would like Rock Choir sessions to be prescribed on the NHS to help depression.
‘I’m not saying everyone in the choir is a depressive,’ she says, ‘but there is a lot of it about – depression, cancer and divorce.’
Yet this is not what you see on the faces of members as they rehearse. Joyful, Joyful is one of the choir’s favourite gospel songs, and it seems to accurately describe the experience.
‘Fill us…’ they sing at the 8pm session at Hampstead in west London, hands clapping as they step once to the right, once to the left. ‘Fill us… Fill us with the light of day’. ‘Well, it’s better than sex, isn’t it?’ says one member.
Surprisingly, Caroline is not the product of pushy parents and theatre school. At the age of four she was standing up in front of her class leading the hymns. At 11, she won a music scholarship to St Martin’s, an independent girls school in Solihull, West Midlands, where she told teachers she was going to be a pop star.
‘Everything I did was intended to get me to London at 21 for a record deal,’ she recalls. ‘The Grade 8 piano and violin by 15, the degree in popular music at Salford University, playing and singing in bars and clubs.’
But London turned out to be ‘an awful experience’. Caroline encountered the seamy side of the music industry, the ‘dreadful people on the fringes’ who expected an attractive 20-year-old girl to do whatever it took to get noticed.
‘I couldn’t deal with it. My morals wouldn’t take it.’ The last straw was when her father, Dave, came to see her singing in a club and was shocked by how low she was. He said, ‘You look so ill. You need to leave London and rethink your career.’
So taking his advice, Caroline moved to Farnham where her parents live. For the next six months she was so depressed she couldn’t even bring herself to listen to the radio. Then she got a job teaching music at Farnham College in Surrey, and it was as if a light had switched on inside her.
Four years later, when Caroline was 30, she started a choir for her students. It became so popular that soon local people were asking to join, so she set up another choir. Within three years there were 12 Rock Choir groups across Surrey.
Because the members are amateurs and most can’t read music, they learn by rote (repetition, not sheet music), rehearsing harmonies and choreographed movements to the sort of hits everyone knows and impulsively sings along to, such as Walking On Broken Glass, Rescue Me, Waterloo. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a voice like a goose with laryngitis; it’s all about taking part.
Then, last year, a journalist who had joined the choir wrote an article about it and things snowballed. In April 2009, the choir was invited to perform on BBC1 Breakfast. Half an hour later, Caroline took a phone call from the head of Decca, part of Universal Music.
‘Whatever you’ve got,’ said Dickon Stainer, ‘we want to bottle it.’ He was offering a four-album deal. Caroline signed a contract at 9.30am the next day in the lobby of a hotel in Farnham. Then, in a trance, she popped across the road to Sainsbury’s, ‘to pick up something for supper. And then it hit me. I screamed in the aisles, “We’ve got it! We’ve got it.”‘
With no recording studio able to accommodate such a large numbers of singers, Decca hired a school in Cranleigh, Surrey and sent a recording truck. Then, over four days, 987 people aged between six to 70 made an album together.
They recorded in shifts of 250. ‘I didn’t audition them,’ says Caroline, who is scrupulous about inclusivity. ‘Everyone had to have the opportunity.’
Although Caroline was reluctant to sing any of the solos – ‘Because Rock Choir isn’t about me, it’s about them’ – the album’s producer was insistent.
The story of how Rock Choir: Vol 1 stormed the charts is classic Caroline. Determined that the album would be a hit, Caroline decided that she had to do something to promote the CD herself.
‘It’s as if a big iron gate has creaked open, and finally I’ve been let into the music industry’
‘You get one chance in the music industry,’ she says, ‘and I was not going to let this album flounder.’
Caroline and her guitarist husband, Stuart, sold their home in Farnham and moved in with her parents, so that they could use the money to book the 3,600-seater Hammersmith Apollo for a one-off Rock Choir concert, which took place just last month.
Not only did she fill the stage with 2,500 singers, she filled the auditorium with their friends, family and anyone else who was interested – and everyone was urged to buy the album.
Later that night, Caroline and her team watched Rock Choir: Vol 1 climb from nowhere to number one on the Amazon pre-order chart – past Oasis, past Kylie, past Scissor Sisters and Eminem. It took just seven hours. And there it stuck, or thereabouts, right up to its launch earlier this month.
Some in the music industry scoff that it’s a viral marketing stunt that can’t be sustained; Caroline prefers to think of it as ‘people power’. It is the people’s choir, after all – why shouldn’t buying their own album count? Enthusiastic reviews in the press have ensured it will reach a wider audience.
For Caroline, getting the album deal has lit a fuse. ‘It’s as if a big iron gate has creaked open, and finally I’ve been let into the music industry.’
Following the recording she was asked to sing lead vocals on a track for the album Coming Home by The Soldiers, the group made up of three real-life soldiers. The album went double platinum, and her version of Against All Odds became the most downloaded song. And when The Soldiers went on tour earlier this year, Rock Choir was one the support acts.
Simultaneously, the Rock Choir business is booming. So many new choirs have been formed that she has had to create a training programme for new leaders. It’s all happening so fast – and Caroline is a woman who finds it hard to let go. Her husband and father have been drafted in, and there is literally no escape from work.
‘It’s bittersweet,’ she says. ‘Stuart and I work until 9pm, then eat Rice Krispies for supper. I would like to start a family, but there’s not a chance it will happen right now.’
Sadly, Caroline’s health has suffered. Just before she was due to go on tour with The Soldiers, she was admitted to hospital.
‘I’m quite a calm person,’ she says, ‘but I think I must have been internalising things. I got such horrendous headaches, I ended up in casualty and was put on a drip. I said to the doctors, “I’m going on tour in two days – give me some drugs.”‘ An X-ray revealed an infection on her jaw.
‘I think it was a warning. My body was trying to stop me from singing.’ But, being Caroline, she ignored the warning and sang at the Royal Albert Hall on a cocktail of drugs, followed by the Birmingham Symphony Hall.
‘I was smiling even though my face was killing me. I didn’t want the choir to know anything was wrong.’ An hour later she was back in casualty. ‘In five years I’ve never missed a rehearsal, but at that point I thought OK, I’ve just got to go with this.’
The future, she hopes, will be ‘nothing less than rock ‘n’ roll’. ‘I’d love to take Rock Choir on a tour of America. Imagine all these British middle-aged women leaving their husbands and children behind and going on tour,’ she laughs.
And then there is the 2012 London Olympics. Nothing has yet been discussed formally, but could Rock Choir be Britain’s response to the astonishing, synchronised drumming by thousands in the Beijing stadium in 2008?
So concerned are the purists about the ‘threat’ of Rock Choir that, according to an insider, the organisers of the opening ceremony have already received dozens of letters strongly against this populist act getting any exposure.
‘It’s their problem,’ shrugs Caroline. ‘Pop music brings so much pleasure to so many people. You can see what’s happening with Rock Choir, that it’s becoming a musical movement across the entire country.’
It’s hard to deny that the spirit of Rock Choir – in all its all-inclusive, high-energy joyfulness – has a refreshing echo of the original Olympic ethos. As they say, it’s not the winning that counts. It’s the taking part.
ROCK CHOIR UNITE TO LAUNCH DEBUT ALBUM
Rock Choir, the largest popular contemporary choir in the world with over 4,500, mainly female, current members, have shot straight to Number 1 on the Amazon Hot Future Releases chart, following the launch of their debut album Volume 1 which will be released on 5 July, through Universal’s Decca Records.
On Sunday 20 June, Rock Choir launched their debut album, entitled Volume 1 by gathering the majority of Rock Choir members together at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo to unite in song for the very first time. Rock Choir has over 150 choir groups nationwide numbering over 4,500 members so far. The album launch, which saw over 2,500 members fill every seat in the stalls and the stage of the HMV Hammersmith Apollo and announced the choir’s support of the charity Refuge, was featured on BBC Breakfast and ITV London Tonight and led to a massive pre-order of the album, garnering the choir the much coveted number one slot ahead of Kylie Minogue and the Scissor Sisters.
The choir was formed in 2005 by director Caroline Redman Lusher who wanted to develop her concept of introducing a glamorous and fun form of singing whilst caring for the emotional well being of the UK’s public, introducing a life affirming experience for them using well known pop songs. Bringing music and performance to communities across the country in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, Rock Choir choirs require no audition or even the ability to read music. There are now over 150 choirs nationwide featuring members from all walks of life and varying degrees of experience.
Volume 1, the first of a four album deal, is an album that reflects the power and spirit of Rock Choir, and features a myriad of famous pop tracks ranging from Motown favourites Can’t Hurry Love and Dancing In The Street to Amy Winehouse’s soulful hit cover of Reef’s Valerie.
Undoubtedly, one of the most defining qualities of Rock Choir is the sense of empowerment and belonging it brings its members. For many, the weekly rehearsals have become welcomed havens through which they can express themselves and escape their everyday life whilst enjoying an entertaining and exhilarating singing session.
Caroline Redman Lusher said: “I began Rock Choir with the help of my father and soon realised that not only did it use all the skills I have developed over the years, it made a lot of people very happy and even changed lives. The power of singing and music is extraordinary and introducing contemporary songs and dance routines into a choir format takes us away from the more traditional impression people have of a standard choir. Rock Choir is exciting and the members are passionate about it. The album deal has allowed members to feel like rock stars; it’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved. Rock Choir exists for people who want to have fun and enjoy time out of their busy lives to do something for themselves; to sing even if they have never sung before”
It is this liberating power of the choir that has led to ongoing relationship between Rock Choir and Refuge, a charity organisation which offers a range of services for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Rock Choir Ltd. is donating their royalties from the track Something Inside So Strong directly to Refuge, and the group will continue to use their music to highlight the incredible work performed by the organisation each and everyday.
To celebrate the release of their debut album, all 4,500 members of the choir will perform for the first time together on Sunday 20 June. Their performance will be filmed to make the music video for their debut single Can’t Hurry Love, earning them the title of the biggest group ever to feature in a music video.
Full track listing follows:
Rock Choir Volume 1
1. You Can’t Hurry Love
2. Walking On Broken Glass
3. Something Inside So Strong 4. Dancing In The Street
5. Somebody To Love
7. Rescue Me
8. Joyful Joyful
9. I Say A Little Prayer
10. No Tomorrow
11. Signed Sealed Delivered
12. Anytime You Need A Friend
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
ROCK CHOIR SUPREMO GETS SOLDIERS’ PLATINUM DISC
The founder and director of the Surrey-based Rock Choir has been presented with a platinum disc recognising her contribution to the hit album Coming Home, by The Soldiers.
Caroline Redman Lusher performs lead vocals on the track Against All Odds. The album reached number four in the charts, achieving sales of 300,000.
Ms Redman Lusher, who teaches Rock Choir rehearsals in Guildford and Godalming, was invited to sing with The Soldiers earlier this year after appearing on the BBC Breakfast show.
More than 100 choir members were present at the Farnham Maltings to see her presented with her disc.
“It was very emotional for me,” she said. “I have always wanted a gold disc to put on the wall but to receive a platinum disc is more than a dream come true.
“It’s amazing to think all of this has been possible because of Rock Choir.”
Rock Choir is the largest contemporary choir in the UK and was established in 2005.
It offers members of the public the chance to sing pop, gospel, Motown and chart songs without the need for previous singing experience.
The choir has become a fixture at GuilFest in recent years and its membership has grown from 180 three years ago to more than 5,000 in choirs now spread across the South East.
In preparation for The Soldiers’ nationwide tour next year, Ms Redman Lusher spent time with the three servicemen – Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi – backstage at the Cardiff Arena for the BBC’s Children in Need.
“The passion and support for the boys is overwhelming, they are receiving so many standing ovations and it’s very moving,” she added.
“They are touching the lives of so many people, with heartfelt and honest comments from their fans just simply saying ‘we appreciate everything you do’.
“I’m so proud to be a part of The Soldiers’ album.”
Ms Redman Lusher was presented with the disc by Nick Patrick, who produced the album and has also worked with Russell Watson and Katherine Jenkins.
He said: “The boys and their music is providing emotional support for communities and lifting spirits, which is exactly what Caroline has done with Rock Choir with 5,000 of her own singing troops.”