Ain’t no Mountain Choir: Reflections from Catalonia

Explaining on the telephone to my father how I’d been spending the previous week in Catalonia, he did seem a little perplexed by the exact purpose of the trip: “you didn’t perform in front of an audience at all?” Then he cut me short to say he’d be late for his book club. I wondered if he had ever considered broadcasting the book group’s conversations live to the nation…


Brought together via one clear understanding of understandingness in general, I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of going to a remote mountaintop location to live and sing with and sleep amongst a moderately large group of human adults who I didn’t necessarily know much about individually; only with the expectation of a shared politics to a certain degree.


Often wordlessly we self-assigned, embodied or divvied out roles: our heroic hosts, someone collecting wood for the fire, someone keeping the logs burning, someone enjoying the view, or taking the donkeys out to graze along the terraces in the morning, chopping vegetables for stew, pulling water from the well, washing up, restoring a pizza oven, teaching Croat folk songs, sharing tales and wisdom, creating a useable toilet that became the loo with a view that looked out across endless peaks by day and was swallowed up by silence and stars by night, teaching one another new and old songs, someone instigating critical thinking about our collective aims and from everyone, always an overarching sense of gratefulness, repeated thankfulness for being able to share in the staggering natural beauty of the universe and to be able to converse and sing together within it.

It seemed to me a collective gratitude to everyone for trusting enough in the potential of the experience to actually say yes and be there, leaving the customary flakiness of the city behind for just a few days, allowing the elements to build up on our bodies without complaint before plunging into a crystalline sea to bathe, like a floating football team or mermaids conducting a meeting in the waves, finding our feet again and returning home. In a way, I can see why my father found it strange hearing how we all came to be there together; it seems like a dream.

I think that is the beauty of a choir. People coming together consistently, carving out space from nowhere in which to make something together; through listening, through singing, to create something far greater than its parts, to experience something sonically majestic. It’s infectious and I’m infected.

Surrounded every day by the cultivated wonders of London and the cities, it’s easy for ideas to evolve into forms that are honed and honed into complex binaries but which I have found three days spent in the mountains can reverse, and strip down to their simplest forms. Our choir currently calls itself ‘intersectional feminist’ and that precursory word means a lot to me because it acknowledges the possibility of difference, of exploring and moving across boundaries instead of categorically stating them. We all hear differently.


Gathered below are a series of contributions collected from the choir during a listening exercise:

I can hear

I can hear my left ear
I can hear twit, tit, pip, chick, tit
I can hear Zia eating a pear
I can hear continuous bird call
I can hear a musical Catalonian laugh
I can hear me breathing tree breathing
I can hear bodies moving and shifting over rocky surfaces
I can hear gunshots
I can hear clouds crashing into mountaintops
I can hear the sound of uncertain pens
I can hear perhaps a single church bell
I can hear the tick-tick tick tick of an insect chirping
I can hear crying
I can hear distance
I can hear flies zzzzz
I can hear bodies digesting mouths swallowing bodies functioning
I can hear my tummy rumbling
I can hear thirsty flowers
I can hear you breathing
I can hear our breath together


I cannot wait for our Christmas gig 

Blogpost by Poppy Cockburn. Special thanks to Jenny Moore, Jeni B for email organising, Rosa for driving and Ben and Will for inviting us and being darlings and everyone in F*Choir (past, present & future).