Old Bailey Choir to use ‘The Force’ for good

Old Bailey Choir to use ‘The Force’ for good
The Old Bailey Choir will perform Carl Orff’s powerful Carmina Burana (Old Bailey Choir/PA)

Judges, lawyers and staff at the Old Bailey will use “The Force” for a good cause with a performance of choral music featured in the Star Wars films.

The Old Bailey Choir and friends of the world’s most famous criminal court will give a rendition of Carl Orff’s powerful Carmina Burana, marking the 40th anniversary of the German composer’s death.

The piece – in a mixture of Latin, High German and French – appears in multiple Hollywood blockbusters but is also known from a classic television advertisement for Old Spice aftershave.

Money from the concert near the Central Criminal Court in London on June 15 will go towards a fund helping ex-offenders.

Star Wars Episode 3 \u2013 Revenge of the Sith \u2013 UK Premiere \u2013 Odeon Leicester SquareStar Wars Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith features Carmina Burana (PA)PA Archive/PA Images - Joel Ryan

Judge Anthony Leonard QC, who sings bass in the choir, said: “I think it’s something completely different. You can completely switch off from your everyday life when you are singing. And any choir will tell you that.

“And certainly with the sort of work we do here, it’s fantastic relief. It’s really good for you.”

The Old Bailey Choir was formed in 2017 by two members of the court’s Witness Services and initially had modest aims.

Judge Leonard told the PA news agency: “It’s been a huge success and it’s grown in its ambition – and good heavens – even singing in Latin now.

“It’s a wonderfully friendly choir. It’s attracted a number of people from the legal profession – solicitors, barristers, and judges from other courts, together with many who work in the City.”

“When we come to do Christmas carols, or indeed a concert, we expand because we can rely on what we call friends of the choir to come join us. And thank goodness they do.

Judge Anthony Leonard QCJudge Anthony Leonard QC sings bass in the choir (Old Bailey Choir/PA)

“They love being associated with the Old Bailey. For them it’s a treat, and for us it’s a huge treat as well.”

The choir continued to rehearse throughout the pandemic despite the challenges.

“We were doing it all online,” Judge Leonard said. “It’s very difficult because you have to switch your speaker off so you can’t hear other singers.

“Whilst that is frustrating, it actually is incredibly good for improving your skills.”

Due to Covid restrictions, 2020’s socially distanced Christmas carol concert was filmed in the Old Bailey’s Grand Hall and posted on YouTube.

Judge Leonard said: “We thought we’d come back with a bit of a bang this year by doing Carmina Burana, which is extremely ambitious for any amateur choir to do it. But again, making use of our friends, we should have a choir of about 70.”

The choir is supported by a live orchestra taken largely from the legal profession, with the string section assembled by Court of Appeal judge Lady Justice Andrews.

Central Criminal Court \u2013 stockThe choir’s 2020 Christmas carol concert was filmed in the Old Bailey’s Grand Hall (John Stillwell/PA)PA Archive/PA Images - John Stillwell

Among the three soloists is Rupert Pardoe, who practised regularly at the Old Bailey before becoming a professional singer.

The choir led by Andrew Storey, a master at Dulwich College, boasts a diverse membership, with the oldest who retired aged 89 and the youngest in his teens.

On the choice of music, Judge Leonard said: “It’s a huge piece. You have to have six percussionists just to make it work. It’s full of bangs and bells and whistles, and goodness knows what else.

“It’s partly in High German, partly in French and partly in Latin. And also there are some bits that are just gobbledygook, just noises.

“So from a choir that would only sing in English, to get them to sing in three languages is quite extraordinary, quite an achievement.”

Proceeds go to the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund, which supports ex-offenders in the weeks after their release and improves prison visitor centres.

Judge Leonard added: “Anything that can be done to encourage people not to go out and reoffend is close to the heart of anyone who works in the justice system.”

– The Old Bailey Choir and Friends concert at Holy Sepulchre Church, Holborn, is from 7pm on June 15. Tickets are available from

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