Rock choir leader Nik Haley tells Fred Latty why the group is taking the UK by storm

Tell us how the choir began
Rock Choir was started by Caroline Redman Lusher in 2005. I got involved six years ago, and it was showing signs of being a great success. Caroline wanted to bring in a few more choir leaders to start expanding, and it has grown and grown from there.

How big is it today?
We’ve now got more than 300 choirs across the UK. There are more than 60 choir leaders and about 20,000 members, so it’s gone really well and is a winning formula. The atmosphere is very informal, friendly and inclusive, and it’s about enjoying the singing and the songs.

What kinds of music do you tend to perform?
It’s a mixture of genres like rock, pop, gospel and Motown, with rock and pop classics in the Rock Choir way, which tends to be at least a three-part harmony and sometimes up to a six-part harmony.

Does it have a big presence in and around Tunbridge Wells?
It started in Farnham, Surrey, and it spread across the southeast. I’m regional manager for Kent, so I look after all the choir leaders in this area, and we’ve got an awful lot of people who come. We’ve got 3,000 members in this region. I operate in Tonbridge, Maidstone, Sevenoaks and Orpington, and the Tunbridge Wells choir has just started again in the last couple of weeks.

Do you attract a mixed age range?
Rock Choir’s available to everyone, we go from ten up to the oldest choir member, who’s just turned 95. It’s multi-generational and we call ourselves a family of 20,000. Our winning formula is that anybody can come and sing, and increasingly we’re attracting a younger audience because the song choices are becoming more recent. It’s important to us that singing is available for everyone and that kids are brought up singing.

In what ways do you ensure the same quality across the board?
It’s not run like a franchise like similar organisations would be. It’s a family business and Caroline, her husband and her dad are still at the core. They keep us together for training, which we do throughout the year so every single choir leader is delivering the exact same quality and format of our rehearsals. The quality control is really tight, which is why it’s going so well. We keep doing more and more exciting events and more opportunities come our way, but the core values and ethos is haven’t changed, which is what Caroline is at pains to maintain.

Is there much variation between the different regional and local choirs?
It’s a weird dichotomy we’ve got, because we’re UK-wide, but it’s really important we make the choirs feel they’re local and community based. We’ve always done things like Christmas light shows, village fetes and school fundraisers, and we keep that going alongside all the big arena shows. We want to keep those local events going, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Where would you like to see Rock Choir go in the future?
I’ve taken my choir to events in and around Tunbridge Wells, and there’s loads going on. We’re regulars at the Tonbridge Arts Festival and have sung at Tonbridge Castle, Hever Castle, the Assembly Hall and The Pantiles. We want to reach as many people as possible in the UK – and maybe even beyond one day – keep giving decent quality choir leaders a living and make sure the membership keeps happy and keeps singing.

ROCK CHOIR
Founded: 2005 (leader Nik Hayley pictured above)
Address: Unit 7 Hurlands Business Centre, Hurland Close, Farnham, Surrey GU9 9JE
Tel: 01252 714 276
Web: www.rockchoir.com
Email: office@rockchoir.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheRockChoir Twitter: @RockChoir
Members: 20,000
Choirs: 300
Choir leaders: 60
Membership cost: £25 a month
Nearby branches: Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Orpington, Maidstone
Music styles: Rock, pop, gospel, Motown