The benefits of singing for health and wellbeing are well documented, so it’s little wonder our village choir scene is thriving. I Love Bramhall met up with Kate Firth, director of Cheshire Community Choirs, to find out more about the revival of choral singing and why now is a great time to start flexing those vocal chords.
Established at Bramhall Methodist Church eight years ago, the local segment of Cheshire Community Choirs is as popular today as it was when it was first founded. Director Kate, who lived locally on Meadway until just last year, runs Friday afternoon choral meetups for around 30 members at the Methodist church on Bramhall Lane South.
With a background in barbershop quartet singing, Kate is a fully qualified singing tutor with a clutch of awards to her name. Having sung all her life, Kate got into barbershopping in the 1990s and has since achieved success around the world. To date, her accolades include scooping the national quartet champion title twice, being named a European gold medallist and taking 12th place in the world at the international championships in the USA.
As well as leading the Bramhall Village Community Choir and taking part in prestigious singing competitions, Kate also runs three other groups that, together with the Bramhall segment, form the Cheshire Community Choirs. Teaching in Wilmslow on Wednesday afternoons, Heald Green on Tuesday mornings and Alderley Edge on Tuesday afternoons, Kate also finds time for one-to-one singing lessons with adults and youngsters, predominantly over the age of 13.
A working Mum, Kate splits each year into three terms, taking some time out in the school holidays to be with her daughter. However, even during these periods of downtime, many group members still meet up at their allotted class times and enjoy a bit of socialising instead of singing!
The ethos at each of the Cheshire Community Choirs is one of fun and friendship – many members are retired and enjoy socialising at choir meetups. Kate teaches breathing techniques, which – as well as helping each member hone their singing skills – can also improve the symptoms of health disorders like COPD. Kate’s members have noted improvements in a range of medical conditions since joining the choir, including heart complaints and back problems.
Each choir meets at its local Methodist church and learns the same songs, so members can attend any – or all – of the groups if they like. Practice is divided equally between acapella and singing with a backing track, and groups learn two songs each term, usually performing a repertoire of around seven or eight songs in public once or twice a term. The Cheshire Community Choirs primarily sing for fun but there is a competitive element, too; members recently took part in the Alderley Edge Music Festival, where they came an impressive fifth place.
More often, the choirs sing in public at community events, or to generate money for charity. Each year, members choose a charity relevant to their group and raise vital funds – for 2018, the chosen charity is Bloodwise. Earlier this year in July the Cheshire Community Choirs raised more than £200 for the cause at a cake and coffee event, and more fundraising is planned for the months ahead.
The groups perform regularly at Bramhall events like the Duck Races and the Scarecrow Festival, as well as at events throughout the wider Cheshire area, such as Heald Green Festival and Pub in the Park at Knutsford. Local readers might want to put November 9th in their diary, when the choirs will be singing at Bramhall’s CentrePoint as part of the Methodist church’s three-day WWI commemorations.
Term begins on September 14th and anyone is welcome to join – Kate is especially hoping to recruit some more male members to the Cheshire Community Choirs, so don’t be shy! With so much to be gained, including new friends, a confidence boost and a range of potential health benefits, it’s never too late to put your singing skills to good use and spread some community cheer.
You can find out more about joining the Cheshire Community Choirs by contacting Kate using the links below:
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