Cheshire Fire Choir back from singing in New York

Members of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Choir are back from singing at a world famous New York concert hall and fulfilling their dream to sing for their fallen colleagues in the terrible events of 9/11.

22 members of the choir made the trip to New York to perform Bruce Springsteen's The Rising at Ground Zero Memorial Plaza in tribute to the 343 firefighters who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers. The song tells the story of a firefighter who was inside one of the towers on that fateful day and realises he isn’t going to survive.

Choir chair Steve Flanagan said: “Before we went to Ground Zero we spoke about our emotions and ways to keep them at bay. We wanted to do the fallen firefighters proud and we wanted it to be about them, not us. We'd waited so long to do this so it had to be right.

“The weather had been really cold but dry, but on the day of our Ground Zero performance it rained non-stop. It was agreed beforehand that whatever the weather when we got there we were going to sing at the memorial. It was the least we could do for our colleagues."

Soloist was firefighter Matt Lloyd from Macclesfield. Matt and the operational firefighters of the choir wore their uniforms and medals as a mark of respect. Matt sang the first section and then the choir joined in.

They sang, surrounded by the New York skyline, with tears of sadness mixed with rain pouring down their faces, but they stood proud. They could not have sung it any better and afterwards people who had gathered in the crowd came and thanked them, congratulating them on their tribute.

The song talks about the wreckage and pain of that horrendous event on 9/11 and is a requiem for those who perished in the sudden inferno and those who died trying to save them. It's an emotional song at the best of times but words could not describe how the group actually felt singing it at Ground Zero.

They were honoured when Long Island resident Richard McKay from Sandbeach Fire Department turned up to see them sing at both Ground Zero and Carnegie Hall. Richard is a head chaplain and his wife, Elizabeth, is from Warrington in Cheshire. The couple had seen a post on social media that the choir was performing in New York so went along to both performances to support them.

The choir also sang along with choirs from all over the world at Carnegie Hall where they performed Welsh composer Paul Mealor’s piece ‘Stabat Mater’. This was sung in Latin, and the choir had to not only remember the words but learn how to pronounce them. Not an easy feat but they did the Service proud and sang as well as the professional choir members who came from all over the world, even as far away as New Zealand.
Steve added: “It was a full house and, as we went on stage, the realisation of what we were about to do dawned on us.  We could see Paul Mealor sitting at the back of the auditorium and we knew we couldn't let him down, but, more importantly, we couldn't let ourselves or Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service down.

“We followed our conductor James Jordan's every move and sang from the deepest and loudest range to the quietest transpose imaginable, and we sang from our hearts. This was truly an amazing piece and so sentimental that we had tears of both joy and sadness at the end.

“We were given a standing ovation for our performance of Stabat Mater and the world premiere of Jubilate, which we also sang. These two pieces brought the audience to its feet.  We just kept thinking, we’ve done it”

The choir now wants to raise money for The Firefighters Charity by releasing a CD of their music to help fellow firefighters and their families.

Last updated: Tuesday 01 March 2016

Last updated: Monday, 6 March 2023