Advanced Care Research Centre

Here we are! Pathhead Choir creates concert tour on later life

ACRC Researcher Sue Lewis is part of a choir performing songs about later life.

A local community choir is set to wow audiences this June, with three concerts to take place across Edinburgh and the Lothians featuring songs written about later life.

Pathhead choir were tasked with writing songs about and from the perspective of later life. The resulting songs have been developed and rehearsed, and the show "Here we are" goes on tour in June with the backing of a group of talented musicians. 

The choir contains Sue Lewis, a Senior Research Fellow within WP4, who is taking the opportunity to dig deeper into the songs and lyrics chosen as part of her research.

Three concerts are going to take place:

Wednesday 21 June @ Crichton Collegiate Church, Pathhead, Midlothian, EH37 5XA Doors 19.00, concert 19.30 Tickets £5 (under 16s free) from

Friday 23 June @ Morningside Parish Church, 2 Cluny Gardens, Edinburgh EH10 6BQ, Doors 19.00, concert 19.30 Tickets £5 (under 16s free) from

Saturday 24 June @ West Barns Village Hall, Edinburgh Rd, West Barns, Dunbar EH42 1UP Doors 19.00, concert 19.30 Tickets £5 (under 16s free) from

A potted history of the programme is below:

Back in late 2021, Autumn Voices – an organisation that seeks to celebrate creativity in later life – invited outline proposals for projects which would help build partnerships in local communities by involving members of local organisations who were aged 60+ in creative activities.

Sophie Bancroft, a professional singer, songwriter, community choir leader and member of the award-winning Pathhead Music Collective (PMC) put in an outline for a song-writing project with The Pathhead Choir to facilitate some of the older members of the choir to write new songs for the choir, which would be arranged by some of the amazing collection of high profile musicians and music arrangers that live in the village of Pathhead and performed in concerts around the Lothians: Gina Rae, Tom LyneDave MilliganTom BancroftCorrina Hewat.

Autumn Voices commissioned Sophie to develop the proposal and then went on the hunt for funding. In late 2022 they were awarded a grant from The Hope Scott Trust and significant funding from Creative Scotland and gave Sophie the go-ahead to implement the project in 2023.

About The Pathhead Choir: Sophie Bancroft and fellow singer, choir leader and fellow PMC member Gina Rae, founded The Pathhead Choir 13 years ago in Pathhead, Midlothian, where they both live. The choir, which rehearses in the stunning Crichton Collegiate Church, draws its members from the village, the local area and as far afield as Edinburgh. A third of the current active choir members are aged over 60. The choir rehearses for a spring term and an autumn term each year, performing a concert at the end of each term.

In the run up to the project starting: Eight members of The Pathhead Choir signed up to take part in the songwriting group for the project. They include a farmer, a retired GP, a retired health visitor, a retired teacher who is now a weaver, a doctor, an anthropologist, a retired bank employee, a former social worker who is now a spiritual director and storyteller. The Pathhead Choir Songwriting Group is Val Djikman, Mags Bryan, Jean Durrand, Andrew Lorrain-Smith, Sue Lewis, Barbara Hately, Shirley James and Helen Horsfall.

Phase 1 (Jan to Mar 2023) of the project saw Sophie facilitate a group of The Pathhead Choir members, aged 60+, to write a series of original songs. This involved eight weekly workshops held at the Pathhead Bowling Club, where the group used creative writing exercises and discussion to develop themes for song ideas and then worked as a group, individually and in pairs to develop the lyrics for what ended up being eight song ideas. Sophie completed the songs by composing the melodies and music.

The resulting songs are: Face In The Mirror – discussing what we see in the mirror as we get older Hand Me Down – the legacy of soup-making across the generations I Remember – the powerful associations of stones gathered from special places Beach Escape – getting away from the stress of the day-to-day Tree Of Life – our special relationship with trees Grandfather’s Biscuit Tin – life being observed from Grandpa’s old biscuit tin on the shelf Feather – long-term love Here We Are – an anthem about the joys of getting older Phase 2 (Mar to Apr 2023) then saw five of these songs being arranged and notated (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) for the choir by the five professional musicians, choir arrangers and fellow PMC members Tom Lyne, Dave Milligan, Tom Bancroft, Corrina Hewat and Gina Rae. Phase 3 (Apr to June 2023) of the project is now underway where these amazing new songs and choir arrangements are currently being rehearsed by The Pathhead Choir in the Crichton Collegiate Church.

The culmination of this innovative and exciting project will see The Pathhead Choir perform this new music at three concerts around the Lothians, conducted by choir leaders Sophie Bancroft and Gina Rae, and accompanied by jazz pianist Dave Milligan on piano. The concerts will include the five new songs arranged for the choir, and the three other songs also written by The Pathhead Choir Songwriting Group which will be performed by Sophie, Gina and Dave in a duo or trio setting. 

Reflections from Project Participants:

Ken Cockburn, Project Manager at Autumn Voices, said: "Autumn Voices has run a number of creative activities for older people, but this is the most ambitious to date. I'm really looking forward to the concerts, and hearing what Sophie, the songwriters, the arrangers and the singers have created together."

Sophie Bancroft, songwriting facilitator, project leader and choir co-leader said: “The quality of lyrics and depth of emotion that came out during the songwriting workshops was stunning and made the job of composing the music for each song easy because the lyrics were so inspiring. As a songwriter and choir leader, to be able to hear these songs come to life with the amazing choir arrangements is an absolute thrill and the choir is exceptional in how quickly they are learning these new songs. I think everyone who is taking part in the project is feeling very excited by it all. I can’t wait for the concerts to happen so that we can share what we have created.”

The songwriting group said: “It was wonderful to reflect on growing older together and such a privilege to be guided in turning our thoughts into songs which are now pure joy to be singing. A very empowering experience.”

“I found it an extremely challenging totally new experience. Very & suprisingly emotional, hugely warm team-spirited experience. I felt like I was exposing ‘raw’ bits of myself I hadn’t even seen before. I think the others felt a similar thing. Very bonding. Totally unique. Never done anything like it before. Thoroughly enriching.” 

“I absolutely loved being part of the songwriting group. What a wonderful opportunity to create a group of songs together under the guidance of such a talented singer/songwriter who was so encouraging and enthusiastic. A whole new and exciting experience. It was brilliant doing something completely new creatively within a really supportive group. So much fun and really stimulating. It’s wonderful to now hear the songs being sung by the choir- magical! And I feel really proud of what we achieved.”

 “I was very excited, but apprehensive, at the opportunity to take part in the Songwriting Group. However, Sophie was a brilliant leader and facilitator who put me at ease and provided support and guidance throughout. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie with the other group members - we seemed to gel and work well together. New friendships were forged and existing relationships enhanced. I would highly recommend this to others.”

“A wonderful opportunity to explore some of the themes of older age in a creative setting.”

" Participating in these workshops had been amazing. It has been like nothing I have done before: better than a school trip as a child, better than a writing week as an adult."

The music arrangers:

Tom Lyne – PMC musician and arranger and Pathhead Choir member  said: “It has been an exciting and emotional experience working with this group. The words and music are really top class and arranging them into choir works has been a complete joy. As I am slightly more involved with the choir than most of the other arrangers, I also have seen first-hand the impact this project is having on the participants and it is a joy to be there in a supporting role, watching the whole project unfurl. Can't wait for the concerts.”

Dave Milligan – PMC musician, arranger and project choir accompanist said: "What a joy to be involved in this project. The material is just beautiful and so much care, love and creativity has gone into its development - such a privilege to be part of it."

Corrina Hewat – PMC musician and arranger said: “I was delighted to be asked to arrange one of the Pathhead Choir Songwriting Project songs, and when the song came through, it was such a rich and inspirational choice of words, conjuring the years of wisdom and experience within the writers.  To be the arranger was really just to allow the song to be what it wanted to be, rather than forcing anything upon it.  This took time and care, gently nurturing the lines to become themselves, within the sound of gathered voices.  And when the song arrangement was finished I was so pleased to have been the one to take this journey, and I can’t wait to hear the final result sung by the choir. “

Tom Bancroft – PMC musician and arranger said: “As soon as I heard the song I knew immediately it was an epic anthem and got excited. I had a great time writing the arrangement and I am really looking forward to the concert.”