Legal Harmony: 23 Essex Street

On receiving the email about Legal Harmony, my heart leapt, yet at the same time sank. Suddenly, memories of cold churches and Hark the Herald came back.

The drudgery of practice, the slight smell of pipe and Old Spice that came into the small practice room when the men arrived. Why on earth would I want to do anything like that again; except, of course, I am now one of those older men and I now have a grudging affection for Old Spice.

Music is one of the great drivers of all of our lives. It impinges on our present and is, to many, much of the landscape of our past. It, and smell, can take us back to events so easily. It is as emotive as it is invigorating. Oh, and Gareth Malone has made choral singing cool; of sorts.

Just before I received the email from Legal Harmony, I received another email, so much more emotional, so much more heart stopping. It came from a good friend and a stalwart of our chambers. We were informed that she had lost her beloved son. He had taken his own life It was one of those moments where one just stands still, totally numb.

So out of this ghastly confluence of emails, came the idea. Chambers would form a choir and we would sing for our friend and whatever charity she chose.

A quick e mail around chambers, and the deed was done. From scratch, a bunch of barristers and others centred around Essex Street were going to sing in front of 600 people against a number of well-established choirs in one of London’s great cathedrals. What could possibly go wrong?

Let me answer that with one word: practice. Dragging tired barristers from various parts of the country where they had been performing their own professional art, to come down to Essex Street to stand in a conference room doing scales accompanied by my daughter’s £99 Yamaha keyboard is not easy.

Getting 20 people together in one space at the same time to do the same task, is not easy. Getting people to choose one piece of music, let alone three is, not easy. Getting people to sing the right notes (your correspondent especially), is not easy.

But, it has been a whole load of fun. As self-employed people used to being apart from the normal intercourse of office life, this was a new departure. But, whatever the result from Southwark, it is one that we want to continue. It has been funny, it has been moving and it has been hard, but it has brought us all together and it has created something special for us all to share in the future. Whether our delightful, energetic and, ever-so-slightly despairing Director of Music (Beginners’ Dept), Adam Green agrees, is another matter.

Papyrus is a wonderful charity that seeks to help prevent suicide in the young, as well as support those who have suffered as a consequence of losing a loved one. It is not a big, well-publicised charity, but it is one that achieves results immediately. Like many charities it is desperate for money and relies on events like this to help it survive and prosper. We are very keen to do all that we can to help them and do so in the memory of a wonderful young life and in support of a family for whom we care.

We are all delighted to be part of this event. The organisers and sponsors have done a terrific job. Whilst we are performing in a cathedral just around the corner from where Shakespeare wrote into the mouth Dick the Butcher in Henry vi says “first thing we do, let’s kill the lawyers”. We are not top of the love tree in public life, but we do hope that this sort of event will bring out the very best in all of us and all of those who come to see it.