If you walk past The Point in Doncaster’s South Parade don’t be surprised if you hear raised voices. Not ones of anger, but that of a heavenly choir producing the kind of sound which lifts both the heart and soul, writes Veronica Clark.
Every Wednesday evening, a bunch of 40 people come together to form Doncaster’s Quirky Choir.
With a rising popularity in choirs portrayed in TV shows such as BBC Two’s ‘The Choir’ with Gareth Malone, and films including Quartet and Pitch Perfect, more people than ever want to come together to sing as one.
The Point’s Quirky Choir is directed by former music teacher Janet Wood.
Janet started up the Quirky Choir from humble beginnings. It was first based inside the Skill Shop, which is now home Cask Corner pub, way back in 1997.
Today, the choir has more than 40 regular members. It includes people from all walks of life, aged 15 upwards.
“We welcome everyone,” says Janet. “Most people come here and start by saying ‘I can’t sing,’ but people always undersell themselves and most have wonderful voices. However, there’s no pressure – it’s all about enjoyment.”
Life has certainly gone full circle for the Quirky Choir which now does ‘open mike’ sessions at Cask Corner. The choir also sang last year when Ben Parkinson bravely carried the Olympic torch along the street outside in scenes broadcast across the world.
Choir members have also proudly sung alongside the English Touring Opera, performed for the homeless and even done a show at Bawtry’s Phoenix Theatre.
So what makes someone join?
Lindsay Robinson is the latest addition to the Quirky Choir with tonight being her first night. But she’s soon welcomed with open arms and voices.
Lindsay, 43, explains: “It’s about meeting new people of all ages and being part of something wonderful. Singing is like that – it unites people.”
Josephine Johnson nods her head in agreement.
She says: “I’m from a family of six and we always sang as children but then you grow up and that’s when you miss it. But coming here rejuvenates me, no matter how low or tired I am a few hours singing in the choir makes me feel brand new again.
“Janet is a wonderful teacher and we sing some brilliant songs, everything from Nickleback and a bit of Kylie, to African songs. As a group it’s surprising what wonderful sounds you can make.”
Josephine, 55, who has a soprano voice, also enjoys the fact that she can sing in a range to suit her voice.
Michael Baldwin, a headteacher, agrees.
“I love singing,” he says simply, “I heard it was good fun here and it is!”
“When I’m singing and we’re combining lovely harmonies it makes you forget all the stress and worries of the day. Instead, you have to concentrate but you have to do it on something wonderful and uplifting and it immediately makes you feel better.”
Michael, 57, adds: “There’s just something about singing and this choir that just makes you feel good. By the time you leave here you feel ten-foot high!”
Mum-of-two Julie Chambers, 49, was down in the dumps when she first decided to take the plunge and join the Quirky Choir.
“I had confidence issues,” she admits, “but this was something I thought might help me.”
The nurse, who lives in Thorne, once sang classical songs in the school choir and loved every moment but that was 30 years ago.
Julie says: “For the first few weeks I was a bit nervous but everyone was just so friendly and welcoming.
“The songs are always so upbeat that you can’t help but smile as soon as you start to sing. When I leave at the end of each week I feel totally energised and empowered by the whole experience. It’s hard to explain but it just makes you feel happy inside.”
Kay Whitfield, 63, has been a member of Quirky Choir for ten years.
The grandmother, from Bessacarr, says she simply can’t help herself from singing along with her grandchildren Ryan, three, and one-year-old Maisie whenever she gets the chance.
“We sing nursery rhymes, carols, everything,” she says, “I even have an impromptu singsong in the kitchen from time to time!
“By singing with my grandchildren I feel as though I’m passing something on. Singing is such a wonderful thing – it’s for all ages. You’re never too young or old. In fact, I think it keeps you young!”
Her friend Margo Holt, 67, agrees: “When it’s wet and cold outside we come in here and sing and it feels like a warm ray of sunshine. There’s something so lovely about singing together in harmony. Everyone can sing – you don’t have to be an opera singer, you just have to enjoy it and find your own voice.”
At just 15 years old Emily Stoddart is the youngest member. “I was nervous to begin with,” she admits, “but you’ve got to try new things and sometimes you’ve got to take a risk to do what you love doing,” says Emily.
Quirky Choir meets Wednesday evenings 6.45pm at The Point, South Parade, Doncaster, price £3.50 per person, per session. For more information call 01302 341662 or check out the website The Point