Next week, I'll be starting a new choir leading job for a carers' charity. The previous leader, Bryan Marshall (who is great, and runs the Sing Aloud choirs in East Dunbartonshire- check them out), put me forward to take over from him, I was excited and thought it sounded really interesting, but didn't know quite what to expect. We arranged that I would go along to Bryan's last session to meet the choir and see what kind of things they got up to!
I was expecting feel-good songs, lots of fun and energy, and I got that. What I wasn't expecting was to feel quite so moved. The choir had been practising the set of songs they sang that day for several weeks and had just done a performance, so they knew them well. They started to sing Sunshine on Leith by the Proclaimers, a song that I love at the best of times, and when they got to the chorus (“Whi-yulllll the Chief... puts sunshiiiiiiine on Leith”) I felt quite emotional: everyone in that room was singing as if they meant every word.
Chatting to some of the lovely choir members and the organiser afterwards, I found out that, for some of the members, the choir is the only break they have from their responsibilities; the only chance they get to be themselves and not a carer. It's sometimes easy to take singing for granted when you do it all the time like I do, but sometimes seeing it from someone else's perspective brings it home just how life-changing it can be. Some of the accounts I've heard from people over the years include someone who hardly left the house or talked to anyone else before joining a choir, but the knock-on effect of singing in a group improved their confidence and mood so much that they then started going to other groups, meeting more people, becoming more confident and ultimately having a much improved quality of life.
Of course, the songs help with this effect. For Singing for Wellbeing, I try to choose uplifting songs with feel-good lyrics; songs that don't just go over your head but kind of go in your system (Disclaimer: I just borrowed that quote from a presenter on Magic FM which is playing in the cafe where I'm writing this post! She said it at just the right time). So of course, after hearing that performance of Sunshine on Leith, I had to add it to the new repertoire for Singing for Wellbeing. The Proclaimers are masters of going-in-your-system songs, and this is surely their masterpiece. It even sounds great when sung by a stadium full of football fans! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3b_lw7t2TE