Rowena Whitehead, Composer

"I'm really thrilled to be involved in the Cycle of Songs project this year. It is an excellent opportunity to invite the people of Cambridge to sing, those who already sing in Choirs, but also to reach out to those who are not in a Choir and would like to join the Cycle of Songs Choir. I'll be leading this special choir during June, when we'll meet on three consecutive Wednesday nights, which will be free and open to all - children and families welcome too! Also, I'll be co-creating one of the new Cycle of Song pieces with my colleague, Kirsty Martin, to compose an anthemic piece for all the Choirs to learn for the app recording and to sing together at the June and July public events. Working with singers across Cambridge is going to be a busy but very rewarding project."

To learn more about the piece that Rowena has composed and to hear demo versions of it you can visit the Sound Files page.


I was invited to write a song for the Cycle of Songs. For me, it had to be about cycling! As I am passionate about the benefits of people sharing their voices and love to create large scale participatory events, I wanted to create a song that a large number of people could come together to sing, that was fun, positive and satisfying. Helen Weinstein showed me the film of the poem written by Hollie Mcnish that was made in collaboration with pupils at  Impington Village College. The film spoke to me - it made me want to ride my bicycle! We had found our libretto! Hollie’s lyrics are direct, rhythmic and clear. Of the many potential legacies of the arrival of the Tour de France in Cambridge, one of them surely should be to inspire more people to get on their bikes. I invited Kirsty Martin to write with me as I love to collaborate, especially with writers of her talent! As we took different sections and lines from the poem and improvised with them, it became clear that with its strong rhythms and clarity of message, it was the ideal song to be sung by the Cycle of Song Choir and the children’s choirs as an anthemic piece at big open air events. Each part is fairly simple and there is a sense of revolving lyrics and melody as they interweave.... in a cyclical manner... a cyclical song for the Cycle of Songs Choir!

Singers can learn parts either on their own ( using the recordings on this website*)  or in the choir, children at local schools will be learning parts of it and the plan is to get a large number of people to come along for its first grand Open Air Sing in the market square on 21 June. So please come and join us - to sing (if you come at 11am there, will be time to teach you a few lines so we can slot you into the song or you can come and listen ( but , just like cycling, it’s more fun if you participate, rather than just watching it.... unless you are taking part in a gruelling bicycle race that is...)

Of course bicycles are so much part of Cambridge life. Howes'  Bicycle Shop, on Trinity street on the route of the Tour de France was one of the first bicycle shops in the country and this is where the song will be heard on the  app.  There are several well established bike shops with loyal followings in the city. (I am going to mention Colin at University Cycles here, who has so stoically and generously kept hundreds of Cambridge families on their bikes for many years. He deserves a verse , a song even, of his own! What rhymes with 'Colin'?

In the song we refer to a number of routes through Cambridge, all starting off at Parker's Piece, the site of the Tour de France 'Cycle village' . The first is the route of the Tour de France through the city, then we explore a route to Granchester and another to Fen Ditton, just three routes out of manu. It could be a useful way to remember routes. There are many stories of people from different cultures singing their routes and journeys, from the yoiks sung by the Sami reindeer herding people near the Arctic to the Songlines sung by Aboriginal people in Australia to give voice to their landscapes and to aid the journey. The landscape of our city is not exactly epic in the same way, but we all share a connection with the streets and places that we sing about.
So, we invite you to get your helmet on, check your tyres, gears and brakes , and enjoy your bike and sing as you go!


*The Cycle of Songs Choir will learn a version of the song with just the first route – that of the Tour de France, repeated. The app recording made by ReSound Choir will include all routes.

Rowena Whitehead is a singer, songwriter and Natural Voice teacher with a background in teaching, training and community development. Over the past 20 years she has been sharing her passion for singing with people of all ages and abilities throughout the UK and beyond and she is well known for her engaging and relaxed approach in enabling people of all ages to connect with their voices and sing together.

Rowena sees singing as a vital tool in community building and much of her work focuses on counteracting social isolation by enabling individuals and communities to come together to share their voices in creative processes. In 2004 she set up the charity "Talking in Tune Community Music "(, which promotes singing for social change by creating singing and music opportunities for all.

She leads "ReSound", an A Cappella choir in Cambridge, and runs "Singing for Health "courses and "Singing for the Brain" groups. Rowena is also visiting voice lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University and Westcott House, Cambridge University. She has trained Music Therapy students in therapeutic voice work, runs residential training course for voice teachers and is involved in voice projects evaluating the health benefits of singing.

To view pictures of Rowena's involvement with Cycle of Songs click on the slideshow below:

Created with flickr slideshow.
Rowena Whitehead, Composer


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