Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, 2015 Photo: Michela De Rossi  

Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, 2015
Photo: Michela De Rossi


To bring together women of different faiths and none, who are committed to:

◆    Building and promoting relationships of compassion and appreciation across race, language, culture and religion

◆    Helping to remove barriers of prejudice and ignorance which divide people from each other through Song and Silence

◆    Working towards personal growth, spiritual awareness and practice through Song and Silence

To offer public performances and recitals, outreach work and educational activities and any other collaborative works.

Beth Allen leading the choir through the performance at the MIF13 Volunteers launch event Photo: Robert Martin for Manchester International Festival

Beth Allen leading the choir through the performance at the MIF13 Volunteers launch event
Photo: Robert Martin for Manchester International Festival


The Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir was created in March 2013 as part of the MIF Creative programme for the fourth Manchester International Festival and built on the legacy of Sacred Sites, an earlier MIF Creative project which was commissioned for the 2011 festival.

Women from Greater Manchester, with and without previous experience of singing, were invited to come together forming a multi-faith choir, to learn a wide repertoire of songs, prayers and chants from across the different faith groups. In addition to faith material, the choir also had to learn a technically challenging piece entitled If Ye Love Me, specially composed for the choir by the late Sir John Tavener. Over an intensive five-month rehearsal period and with the guidance of the choir’s Artistic Director Beth Allen, the women were challenged and pushed to develop a range of skills in vocal techniques, language and musical composition.

The project culminated in two performances at MIF13. The first, at an evening concert celebrating Tavener’s new and rarely performed works which saw the choir share the stage with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra  conducted by Tecwyn Evans for the world premiere performance of If Ye Love Me. The choir also accompanied Pakistan’s acclaimed Sufi singer Abida Parveen and internationally-renowned cellist Steven Isserlis in a performance of Mahámátar, the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s film Pilgrimage. This evening proved to be a truly historic event at The Bridgewater Hall as it was Tavener’s last public appearance before his death in November 2013.

A second appearance by the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir at MIF13 was in the Festival Pavilion at Festival Square, where the choir performed to an audience of two hundred and fifty people. The wide repertoire of material included Sikh shabads, Buddhist chants and Christian hymns and prayers.

The Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir has received great support, encouragement and interest from many sources and would like to give special thanks to the MIF Creative team and all at Manchester International Festival, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Faith Network 4 Manchester.

After the success of the choir's involvement in MIF13, many of the women expressed a strong desire to continue and establish themselves as an independent, self-sustaining entity.

With continued guidance and support from MIF, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Faith Network 4 Manchester, the choir has continued to meet, sing and perform and looks to the future with excitement, enthusiasm and ambition.

To find out more about our current projects and upcoming performances please visit our news page.

The choir, its inception and product was nothing short of extraordinary. I will never forget working on the project with them.


Tecwyn Evans
Conductor for Sir John Tavener,
Manchester International Festival 2013


Beth Allen, Artistic Director Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir

Beth Allen, Artistic Director
Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir

Beth is a Creative Voice Specialist with a passion for diversity, accessibility and creativity in both spoken and sung voice.

She trained as a classical singer at the RSAMD in Glasgow and spent six years promoting opera through Scottish Opera’s Community and Education Department. She further developed this inclusive and creative work with a Postgraduate Degree in Music Therapy at The Guildhall School of Music.

Beth enjoyed great success as a performer with her own children’s music theatre company, The Happy Gang. They combined the filming of thirty BBC programmes with touring theatres across Scotland and the Highlands and Islands. After completing her MA in Voice at Central School of Speech and Drama she became a vocal coach for the spoken voice, working in many of the country’s leading drama schools.

For the last seven years, Beth has been working creatively in education. Through the Creative Partnerships scheme she has been training teachers to use voice creatively in the classroom with greater confidence and as the creative leader for Lancashire’s Sing Up Initiative, she has been encouraging and inspiring teachers across Lancashire to value singing in schools. She has been an Early Years Specialist for Artists in Schools and Mid Pennine Arts, and vocal coach to both Stumble Circus and Collision Dance. She has developed a resource for Sing Up and Faber aimed at singing and voice work with children in challenging circumstances and is a contributor to the music education book, Reaching Out.

Beth is also a songwriter and has formed her own vocal ensemble The Beth Allen Collective, performing her compositions exclusively on the folk circuit. She is also half of Doolally, a comedy duo who perform their own comical songs on the comedy and cabaret circuits.

Beth has been the Artistic Director for the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir since they were formed back in March 2013 by MIF Creative for Manchester International Festival. She continues to lead and direct the choir, providing a constant source of support, encouragement and inspiration.