Our Salisbury Sing for Life choir is ten years old, and to celebrate they’ll be performing at a sold-out concert at Salisbury Medieval Hall on Saturday 3rd June.
Lucy Roberts from River Studios in Totton, Southampton, and Robin Gair, a performance coach, approached Wessex Cancer Support to see if a singing group could be formed for cancer patients, their carers and families. They hoped that music – and particularly singing, would support local people at a very challenging time in their lives. The Southampton group was launched in July 2012, closely followed by the Salisbury group in 2013. We now have three other choirs in Cosham, Totton and the Isle of Wight, which together have 150 members. Click here for more details.
As well as making friends and supporting one another, singing in a choir is incredibly good for us! It can improve breathing, posture and muscle tension, as well as making us happier and less stressed.
“One of the best things about our choirs is that there’s no pressure to perform, or even turn up every week,” says Sue Edmonds, Sing for Life’s musical director. “We know that our choirs really help anyone living with cancer because both music and a sense of belonging can be immensely healing.”
Liz Bratley, who lives in Laverstock on the outskirts of Salisbury, joined the Salisbury Sing for Life choir in autumn 2021.
“My friend and I were in a different choir, but had been feeling a bit fed up with it. It was quite formal and we started to think that it wasn’t really for us.
“My daughter goes to Parkwood Health and Fitness, where the Sing for Life Choir meet, and she mentioned it to me, and I’d also seen an advert for it, so I called Jean – who organises the sessions, for a chat. She was so friendly and invited me to come along and try it.
“I immediately loved it. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. It feels informal, with no pressure to perform. All of the songs are well known and that helps you to relax and have the confidence to sing them.
“I had breast cancer five years ago and have many friends and family who have personally been affected by cancer. I lost a friend who was only 49. I think because I feel connected to the cause, it makes Sing for Life a special place to be. Having cancer can be very isolating and I know from experience that there can sometimes be a ‘stiff upper lip’ when it comes to talking about it. Sing for Life can be whatever you want it to be, really. I love the singing, but it also gives us an opportunity to share our experiences without the pressure of being in a room where the sole purpose is to discuss what we might be going through. It’s like we know we share a common bond, and we give each other informal emotional support while we’re having lots of fun! It gives me a lift and makes me feel good – and physically singing is very good for the lungs!”
“Another friend has since joined the choir with me and we both agree that it’s helped to create a great support network. As well as the singing, we get the opportunity to have a coffee and a chat. It’s so much more than a choir and I love it.”
Husband and wife, Pete and Sue, joined the Cosham Sing for Life choir in 2013. Both have had bowel cancer, major surgery and chemotherapy. He says he finds singing in a choir incredibly uplifting:
“It gives me so much more than just singing, though,” Pete explains. Because we’ve all been affected by cancer in some way, we all support each other. Some people like to talk about it and others come along for the feeling of togetherness, and both are ok.
“You might feel pretty rubbish when you arrive at practice, for example if you have mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy, and you wonder if you can do it. But the coming together lifts you and you come away with a big smile that lasts for days! We’ve had times where we’ve joined with the other choirs and that’s just incredible. Thinking about all the voices coming together gives me goosebumps.”
“With the support of our choir leader we’re getting better and better at singing and it’s such a privilege to be able to empathise with each other.”