Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co’s choir is undoubtedly the youngest performing at the Legal Harmony competition, given that the firm only formally merged on 1 May 2014
We began life in Wragge & Co’s Birmingham office in December 2010 when a small group of singers, led by then-trainees Rob and Nick Bridgman, performed a repertoire of carols at the annual Christmas Fayre.
The response was such that we set up regular rehearsals and the choir quickly grew in size and ambition. We performed our first lunchtime concert in the summer of 2011, which sold out so quickly we had to add an extra performance.
Due to the interest expressed in our first Christmas carol service, we moved the location to Birmingham Cathedral in order to accommodate the audience. Since then we’ve gone from strength to strength and now perform twice a year to audiences of up to 400 people.
In 2012 we gave our first London performance, at St Andrew Holborn, which is now a feature of our annual programme. We’ve also performed at the headquarters of large clients and at a local nursing home.
The choir is open to all, from experienced musicians to those with little to no formal musical training, and while many of us are unable to read music, it doesn’t stop us singing – and singing well.
Soprano and associate Rebecca Pugh says: “We always have fun and it is a great stress reliever.” Meanwhile, proofreader Steve Ashby comments: “One of the joys of the choir is the diversity of the music – we might sing Mozart or Tallis, followed by a traditional folk arrangement, then Elton John or Journey.”
Rehearsals take place in Birmingham and London once a week, with Rob and Nick both conducting. We come from every part of the firm, from trainees to partners, support staff to managers and PAs to team leaders.
The London branch rehearses at the offices of Lawrence Graham in 4 More Riverside. More than 20 people from Lawrence Graham jumped at the chance to join the existing choir when the merger was announced, boosting our total numbers to around 70.
Rehearsing in two cities presents its own challenges (and at the time of writing we haven’t yet had a joint rehearsal!). Mathilda Davidson, a solicitor in Waterhouse Square, says: “It’s fair to say that, given the distance between Waterhouse Square and More London, finding rehearsal slots has been a challenge, and has seen participants giving up early mornings and evenings to prepare the music for the competition.”
Despite the dedication of our choir, the ethos at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co is that work comes first, and this is probably best illustrated by the fact that there are rarely the same people at two consecutive practices. Despite this, rehearsals are lively affairs, with soprano Raj Flora-Seehra saying, “the Bridgman Brothers are great entertainment (and teachers too), so rehearsals are always a giggle!”
A notable example concerns Nick’s energetic conducting. Caught up in the emotion – or possibly just clowning around – he crouched down in preparation to bring in the sopranos and managed to split open the back of his trousers. Amid the ensuing hilarity, tenor Alex Riddell laughed so hard that he, too, split his trousers. Fortunately nothing of a similar nature has so far occurred during concerts or services. But there’s always time.
There have been mercifully few serious musical failures since our inception (although some confusion over the number of repeats in an early rendition of “Don’t stop believin’” springs to mind!). Christmas processions still present a serious challenge for even the most accomplished legal minds – who’d have thought that walking in a straight line could be so hard! – but we hope to get it right this year.
The biggest surprise has been Renaissance polyphony; ever since we began rehearsing “If ye love me” people have really warmed to the genre.
Access to such a wide selection of music comes from the backgrounds of our choir directors. Property litigator Rob read music at Cambridge University and was a choral scholar at Girton College. After graduation, he became director of the church choir of St Marks, Great Wyrley.
Younger brother Nick (solicitor in real estate) also read music, this time at Nottingham University. After singing with Birmingham chamber choir Ex Cathedra, he won a choral scholarship to St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market, and subsequently spent a year as a choral scholar at Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand. He is currently a lay clerk at Birmingham Cathedral.