Sing to Feel Good

 

Since the pandemic and then my accident severing both Achilles tendons, I have largely lost the desire to spend much time outside, so when a friend suggested I join her on a Tuesday night to sing in a choir, I had mixed feelings.

“I will pick you up,” she said. “It’s only an hour.”

I couldn’t think of an excuse, so off I went, and it was delightful. Not least I must say because the other members of the choir were kind and didn’t make a fuss that I hadn’t sung in years and because of the radiant, bouncy choir leader, Tom. There was the even bigger bonus that it really did feel like it did me good.

Persuaded at my very first session to take part in the choir’s third-ever gig, just two weeks hence, I decided Pembrokeshire.Online needed to know more about Choirs for Good.

I asked Tom some questions and he explained that he had worked for a cancer charity for nearly eight years in Cardiff.

“I worked first as a legal, moving onto an all-Wales project before developing the choir service we led, and leading on our mental health service. I moved back to Pembrokeshire at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Throughout this time, he was a member of three choirs which were for anyone affected by cancer. He became an honorary member of the choir team, being asked to lead sometimes.

I asked why singing is so important.

“Singing is good for you on so many levels. We conducted psychological and physical health studies on some of our choristers and we were able to prove that singing decreases feelings of isolation and reduces stress. It’s a great way to express yourself – there is a song for everyone, and it doesn’t matter what you think you sound like. It matters that most of us have a voice and music can help tell our stories – while genuinely making ourselves healthier.

“Choirs for Good is a relatively new choir network born out covid with a number of choir leaders realising their dream of launching choirs to help people feel good, do good, for good.”

The people setting up the choirs, he explained, have extensive backgrounds in music and wanted to bring the joys and benefits of choral singing to every corner of Wales and beyond.

“There is something quite special about being part of a network of choirs. We’re not an island when we sing, we’re part of a community, even if we can’t see each other all the time – we know they’re there. So much so that we’ve even had other choristers join Haverfordwest choir in a few of our first performances. It’s a great feeling to have.”

I can see how inspiring it is. I have been to two sessions and have now taken part in a concert at St Mary’s in Havefordwest. I never thought I would be doing that – my voice isn’t so good these days, but I have felt so inspired .

“There is something wonderful about knowing that on a Tuesday evening you’re going to meet like-minded people. An hour is all it is, but it’s meeting new people, it’s using your body, it’s making memories.

“Choirs for Good is for everyone. We have people of all ages and backgrounds, men and women singing with us. I think they enjoy the camaraderie and feelgood factor that singing gives them.”

What does the ‘do good’ element mean? Other than just the good feeling coming together gives us?

“The ‘do good’ element of the choir sees our emphasis focus on charities; the current charity of the year for the whole Choirs for Good network is Blood Bikes Wales as voted for by current choristers.”

Where, when and how often does the choir meet?

“Choirs for Good Haverfordwest meet every Tuesday evening from 7.15pm and sings between 7.30pm and 8.30pm at HaverHub on Quay Street. Unlike other community choirs, we don’t run based on terms. We are available every Tuesday evening except for two weeks over Christmas, Easter week and August bank holiday week. Other than that, choir is on for whoever needs it. A benefit of being part of a network is that other choir leaders can cover if need be, which is always exciting as a chorister.”

Tom says that if you’re interested in joining, your first session is free, so you can sample a session first before committing to anything.

For many choirs the emphasis is on performing in front of an audience. What if people want to come along to the weekly sessions but are not happy about singing in front of an audience? What if someone wants to sing but doesn’t think they have a good enough voice?

“Taking part in a performance is great, but totally optional. Choirs for Good is less than a year old but we have performed three times. Our first performance was at the Pembrokeshire County Show where the sound system cut out due to the adverse weather. Our second performance was for a wedding, also outdoors.

“To those who love the idea of singing, come on down and give it a try. Choirs are great as you can sing your heart out, learn something new and still be a little bit hidden.

“Also, you don’t have to be a music reader to join Choirs for Good. We use lyric sheets and backing tracks to train you on your harmony so don’t let music manuscript put you off. When you sign up, you’ll have access to all the lyrics and backing tracks online so you can practice in your own time if you want to.

“If even a tiny part of you is considering joining, come on down and give it a go.”

And I just took part in the first indoor performance which was a  fundraiser for the Samaritans, I didn’t feel any pressure to do that and it was a great evening.

“There is never an obligation to perform. The emphasis is on creating great rehearsals for the individuals but there is something wonderful about performing as part of a choir in your first performances. Being put out of your comfort zone and delivering on something is unmatched in achieving personal goals and increasing social connection with those around you.”

Is there anything else you would like people to know about the Choirs for Good?

“Choirs for Good is a fun and friendly place with a mixture of upbeat pop songs but also some poignant and thought-provoking songs.

“Your first session is totally free and from that point on it is £16.99 per month. There is also an option to pay annually too. We don’t want cost to be a barrier for anyone so if cost may stop you from coming, please do discuss this with the choir leader.

“If you have a voice, you can sing. There are no auditions to join the choir and every voice counts. Many members who come through the door are concerned that they can’t sing or say they haven’t sung in years, but do not let this put you off.

“Everything you need to know can be found at www.ChoirsForGood.com and I can be contacted on tom@choirsforgood.com.

 

 

 

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for pembrokeshire.online, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says "Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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