A Musical History of Hazel Hannam…

Hazel started life singing at every opportunity in the church in which she was brought up, be it solos, (first one aged 4 at a carol service) or in duets and small ensembles, making up harmonies as she went. She accompanied herself on the guitar and on the piano.

In her growing-up years outside of church music, Hazel developed a love of Jazz at first being inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, and this, in turn, led to other great jazz vocalists like Peggy Lee, Julie London, Nat King Cole, which in turn led to great jazz musicians, realising that you didn’t have to ‘sing’ to be expressive and you could pick up fantastic articulation and expression from musicians like Stan Getz, Charlie Parker,  John Coltrane on horns to amazing pianists like Bill Evans, Bud Powell and Hampton Hawes. (to name but a few)

She studied Jazz Singing part-time at the City Lit as well as Jazz Piano for 3 years. For 10 years, Hazel sang jazz at clubs in London including Pizza on the Park, various Pizza Express restaurants and in the Consort Cafe at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as at private functions from weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, to corporate events such as launches of New Cars or Art Gallery exhibitions.

Hazel studied a City & Guilds 7303 Award in 2009 at Guildford College for Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

In 2009, Hazel started her first choir, Soundbytes. Also in 2009, Hazel studied Fundamentals of the Singing Voice 1 at the City Lit, London. This is a professional development course for singing teachers and singers covering the anatomy, physiology, acoustics and health of the singing voice, with lecturers eminent in their fields leading the sessions.

In 2010, she went on to study an Introduction To Accent Breathing for Singers, a technique from speech therapy that works on diaphragmatic-abdominal breathing and support for the voice. It develops the efficient co-ordinating of breath, sound and articulation. After a year of starting Soundbytes, Hazel decided there needed to be an opportunity for people who didn’t want to sing for concerts, but wanted to sing for fun without strings attached! And so SongWorks was formed.

In 2011, Hazel completed and graduated from an Intermediate Level of Choral Conducting. This course is run by the Association of British Choral Directors and is accredited by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The course was under the tutorship of highly respected Neil Ferris and Community Choir expert Jo McNally.

In September 2016, Hazel was asked to launch and run a choir for the staff at Headley Court,  a rehabilitation centre for injured military personnel.

 “It is amazing how much can be achieved in one hour per week!…and within just a few weeks they are starting to sound like a proper choir! I might be motivating them, but they are inspiring me.”
“The choir was set up to inspire and bring together the staff and already there is a growing feeling of unity and camaraderie.”


In January 2017, The WI of Bookham -The Bookham Belles, approached Hazel as they wanted to start up a choir for themselves…The Decibelles were formed and now have a membership of around 30 ladies.

In January 2018, Leatherhead-based company Babcock 4S asked Hazel to start a choir on their behalf and by April it was up and running. They want to sing their first performance to the rest of the company in mid-July! Not bad for a choir of 17 who have only been singing together for 12 weeks! But they are not only keen and enthusiastic, they can sing too!

In 2018 Hazel was asked to start and run a choir on behalf of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development). In March 2020, when the pandemic struck they asked Hazel if they could continue online. Needing to adapt her skills to running all her choirs online Hazel took this on.

“It was really hard for the first term. I had no idea if the singers were enjoying the sessions or understanding my direction. I just kept going with, improving the technology I had until I was satisfied that I was delivering the best experience possible for the singers, in spite of them not being able to hear each other, which is what normal choral singing relies on. 
But after the first term, it was such a relief to get such positive feedback! And that’s when I knew I could and would continue with it until such a time that we could sing together in the same room again.”

Not only did Hazel keep them connected through music and singing, but she got the different choirs to produce virtual choir videos of the songs they’d been learning for each term. It meant getting the singers on board and asking them to record themselves singing, and Hazel also needed to learn how to make an audio mix using sound studio software (yet another skill!) but it was a fantastic way for the singers to be able to hear themselves TOGETHER again. It meant they could share the finished songs with their friends and family and even made it a fund-raising opportunity too.

Since the beginning of lockdown, Hazel has taken on 2 new choirs. These choirs are unique in that the singers have never sung together in the same room before. And as yet, still haven’t. One of the choirs is for the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the other is for the mental health charity the Mary Francis Trust. 

“Everyone needs to look out for their well-being, and I know how easy it is to lose your sense of place in the world. I can understand how easy it is to go from feeling that all is well and everything is fine to swinging into ‘low mood’ and how that can spiral quickly into depression. And I know that lockdown has and will continue to affect many people from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities & cultures, which is why I agreed to start an online choir on behalf of the Mary Francis Trust.”
Are you interested in having a choir at your place of work?
Would you like to form a choir within your community or leisure group?
Would you like to attend a Singing Workshop?
Would you like your choir to have a singing workshop?

Contact Hazel to find out more details.

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