What's it like to sing in a choir? MAXINE GORDON tunes in as singers across York prepare for their Christmas shows


GARETH Malone has inspired a nation of secret singers to step out from behind the shower curtain and take a bow.

Choirs in the UK are booming, with an estimated 25,000 to choose from. And the trend is apparent in York too, where choir membership is buoyant.

TV shows such as The X Factor and The Voice may have encouraged us to exercise our vocal chords, but it took choirmaster Malone to entice enthusiastic singers to perform in public.

However, joining a choir can be daunting. Many people love singing, but are musical novices. The thought of auditioning and reading music puts many people off.

So it's great that some choirs put the emphasis more on fun than formal musical training.

York Press:

GREAT FUN: Sounds Fun Singers with their musical leader Amanda Crawley, centre

Sounds Fun Singers are just one example in York. This was set up around six years ago with the aim of creating a community choir. It is a women-only choir, with about 30 members, open to all abilities. There are no auditions and members do not have to be able to read music. They meet every Wednesday at 7pm at St Columba's United Reform Church, Priory Street, York.

Val Seddon is one of the founding members. The choir came out of an earlier singing project with musical director Amanda Crawley. Everyone enjoyed that so much, says Val, that they decided to set up a new group. Sounds Fun Singers was born, with Amanda in charge, assisted now on piano by David Hammond and Laura Jones.

Val said: "I love singing, but it is the sharing aspect of being in a choir that I love the most. Also, you can hide in a choir. You don't have to stand out – unless you want to: we do have one or two soloists."

Yvonne Harmer signed up after seeing the choir perform. "I was at a community event and listened to the choir and they all looked so happy – it made me want to join." Yvonne loved it so much, she is now taking individual singing lessons. "It got me interested in learning to sing better and has given me the confidence to do that."

York's current Lady Mayoress Val Clark is also a member of the choir. She also sings at a community group once a week for people with dementia and their carers. "We meet at St James the Deacon in Acomb on Mondays at 10am and have a cup of tea and a sing song. We sing lots of old songs from the war and some hits from the shows. It's really nice, some of the people who come don't talk much, but they sing the songs and really enjoy it."

York Press:

INSPIRATION: Choirmaster Gareth Malone has spurred a boom in choir membership across the UK, including York

Val will be wearing the mayoral chains at the choir's Christmas concert, which is in aid of the Lord Mayor's Charities (Refugee Action York, Keep Your Pet, and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf). It will be held on Wednesday, December 6 at 7.30pm at St Clement's Church, Scarcroft Road, York. Doors open from 7pm and tickets cost £5 and will be available on the door. Refreshments will be served.

The choir's repertoire features a mix of traditional songs as well as musical hits and some pop numbers. They will be performing some Christmas songs at the concert on December 6. Another appearance will be in the hall at York Railway Station on Saturday, December 9, at 2.30pm.

Each weekly rehearsal session begins with a good stretch and vocal warm up before tackling the songs. People who can't read music can record their parts so they can learn them by ear.

Val Seddon says: "You come in with all the worries of the day and you have to shake it all off and try to unlock the energy."

Margaret McClure has been a choir member for four years and speaks for all the members when she shares what she gets out of it. "It's very good fun. It does you good to go out and sing your heart out."

Sounds Fun Singers are happy to receive new members from January, when they will begin a new programme. Doors open at 7pm and singing starts promptly at 7.30pm until 9.00pm. The first taster session is free. Choir members then pay £5 at each rehearsal, plus a one-off refundable deposit of £10 for music. Find out more at: soundsfunsingers.org

York Press:


JUSTIN Timberlake, Ed Sheeran and Adele are the music inspirations behind one of the fastest growing choirs in York.

Lucy's Pop Choir was set up in 2013 by York singing teacher Lucy McLean.

"When I started out, I forced all my friends to come along – and they brought some friends too," says 30-year-old Lucy, who has now franchised the business.

Today, the choir has some 100 members and meets twice weekly at Manor School in York.

Lucy puts the popularity down to three things: "We don't hold auditions, we don't use sheet music, and we sing popular songs. We make it as fun as possible with lots of giggles and lots of community vibe."

Besides rehearsing weekly, the choir regularly busks in town – for a variety of charities.

Men and women are in the choir – although more men would be welcome, adds Lucy – with the age range spreading from 18 to 60.

Lucy leads the choir and prepares the arrangements for the songs they sing. She records all the parts for choir members to learn by ear. "They can take home an MP3 of me and can practise in their own time."

York Press:

FROM THE TOP: Tracks by Justin Timberlake, Adele and Ed Sheeran are among those sung by Lucy's Pop Choir

Among the choir's repertoire are Can't Stop The Feeling, a recent hit for Justin Timberlake, Water Under The Bridge by Adele, and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.

"A lot of choirs in York do a fantastic job, but our approach is more casual," explains Lucy. "We have a lot of closet singers – those who sing in the shower or the car, but would be too nervous to join a serious choir. We get a lot of people who really like a good sing song."

And there is something about singing your heart out among company that is so uplifting, adds Lucy. "People might have had a really rubbish day, but they leave really buzzing."

She says there is a real sense of achievement from learning a song the whole way through and performing it together.

The choir will be performing at York's Christmas Lights Switch On this Thursday at 6.30pm in St Helen's Square and at various times and locations around the city over the next few weeks.

Weekly sessions cost £7 and are paid termly, although the first taster session is free. The next term dates will begin on Tuesday 9th and Thursday 11th of January, when a new set of songs will be revealed.

Find out more at: lucyspopchoir.co.uk