Thursday, 3 November 2011

wanna sing with a live band?

Well no, I really, really don't want to, but on the other hand one of the things I have started doing since I retired is singing with a community choir. Community choirs are popular these days and some, like the wonderful Gasworks Choir, have waiting lists. I would normally have been very reticent about joining a choir. I’m one of those people who have never felt I was able to sing.
This choir is different though. It started as an arts initiative by our local GP Practice who had funding for a whole series of “Never Too Late To Create” workshops. The participants were mainly older patients with mental health problems and/or chronic illness. One of the GPs who was closely involved with the groups has noted that the music/singing groups were especially popular and that involvement with singing appeared to increase self-confidence, produced improvements in mood and helped people to socialise with others and build supportive friendships. Since the NTLTC funding finished the choir has evolved into an independent group (the Big Friendly Choir), which is open (and free) to all regardless of health/age/ability. I was encouraged to join by a friend who was already a member.
I have come to really enjoy and value my Thursday morning sing! Our musical director, Mark Lawrence, is wonderfully encouraging and inclusive, and draws performances from us that we didn’t know we were capable of. There are one or two very talented singers with lovely voices who can sing harmonies, but the majority of us (like me) only feel safe singing with others. When I first joined I didn’t realise that public performance would be part of the deal and was acutely embarrassed at the prospect. I am still not confident about my own singing but have come to see that it’s about the group and what we can achieve together. We normally have a modest end of term concert in a cafe/gallery, but have also sung in a residential home; as part of the local Arts Trail; and at Bristol Central Library. In December we will be singing for the pleasure(!) of shoppers in Asda, with a group of children’s choirs in St George’s, Bristol and at the Central Library once more.
Most choirs charge their members a (sometimes substantial) fee, but this one is free and because of that we are regularly looking for funding. At the moment we have enough in the kitty to take us to Christmas and are awaiting the outcome of two funding applications. It seems that one of the things that I see as the choir’s greatest advantages – the fact that it is open to everyone – can be a disadvantage when applying for funds. If it were just for older people, or just for people with long-term health problems there would be a definite “peg” to hang it on, but the fact that we are a mixed group who have come together and formed a choral relationship regardless of problems seems to put us in a special category. There are people in the choir who could probably afford to pay for their sessions, but it would be invidious to create a sort of two-tier membership. This will be an ongoing situation for us, so if you know any funders/charities who might consider supporting us let me know!
We were recently recorded at one of our regular Thursday rehearsals singing a four-part round of This Old Freedom Train and published on YouTube!


  1. I'm reading. And listening, I love choral singing. I am sure the benefits of singing with others are huge, I really hope you secure some funding soon.

  2. I really find your bravery inspiring, I love the way you try new things and challenge yourself. Xxx