All photos courtesy of Doha Singers on Facebook
Expats in Qatar looking to pursue their love of singing – or enjoying good music – now have a host of options here. Among them: an amateur choir group called the Doha Singers, which over the past two decades has found a way to not only persist, but thrive.
The community choir, which is holding a series of concerts this spring, was founded some 22 years ago by Rev. Ian Young, an Anglican priest and musician.
Since then, the group has grown from a membership of around 30 Christians to more than a 100 people of all creeds and nationalities today. An adults-only choir, members range in age from 18 to 60 years old, and hail mostly from the UK, Canada and the Philippines.
In an interview with Doha News, John Warren, a member of the group, said that while the choir has been around for a while, it only began growing in leaps and bounds after 2010.
“I believe it was started with the sole purpose of putting on a Christmas carol concert for the Christian expat community with performances at the Doha English Speaking School. Since then, the carol concert has developed into a festive music concert with both sacred and secular festive music..and an (additional) spring concert.”
Warren, an eight-year veteran of the group, said he joined the Doha Singers because of his lifelong love of music. The 37-year-old British father of two explained:
“I was lucky enough to have singing lessons at school and was awarded a choral scholarship to attend Cambridge University where I sang three to four times per week for the six years I was studying veterinary medicine, and I have kept up the singing ever since leaving university as it plays such an important part in my life,” he said.
Each year, the Doha Singers hold a carol concert and a main concert at hotels in December, and a large performance followed by several additional appearances at school fairs and hotels in the spring.
To prepare for their concerts, the Doha Singers meet weekly for two-hour rehearsals each season. According to Warren, the time is something that members have grown to cherish:
“Most of the choir have daytime commitments whether they be working or ferrying children from one side of town to the other, and rehearsals are, for many, a great way to escape the pressures of everyday life and a time to relax and spend some ‘me-time’ with a lot of music loving friends.”
Elsewhere around town, vocal enthusiasts also have the option of joining a handful of bands, most of whom perform at 21-and-over venues around town.
There are also two other choral groups – the Doha Youth Choir, and the Bach Choral Society – each of which has a specific niche in terms of age and genre of music.
According to Warren, all of these music-related groups are becoming more popular, thanks in part to Facebook and other social media sites that allow them to publicize their performances and engage with their audience.
While the Doha Singers has managed to sustain itself through the years, the journey has not been without struggles.
Access to equipment like grand pianos and staging systems, and to venues for rehearsal and performance has proven an issue.
So far, the group has operated without a financial backer, and, according to Warren, relies on the support of organizations like 51 East, the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the American School of Doha and the College of North Atlantic Qatar for their various technical and space needs.
“We are an unfunded community choir relying on membership fees and the generosity of music lovers to let us rehearse, perform and borrow the vital equipment we need to perform. We have developed a loyal fan base over the years and again, without these wonderful people buying tickets, we would not be able to continue,” he added.
Looking forward, the group hopes to recruit more male members, expand their mailing list, and secure funding.
“We are a non-profit organization yet somehow need to find sufficient money to purchase the equipment we need to be able to sing in venues large enough for our audiences,” Warren said.
The group is slated to perform next at 7pm on June 5 at the College of North Atlantic Qatar. Tickets to the event, which features renditions of several Broadway hits like Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, Les Miserables and West Side Story, cost QR75 and can be bought online here.