Host of choirs in Bishopston area helping residents find their voice

October 01 2013
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Choirs have enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, with the Military Wives advancing on the charts and the TV series The Choir finding vocal talent in the unlikeliest of places. Rebecca Day finds we are in fine voice locally, too, when she meets some of the many choirs based in and around Bishopston.

Choirs have enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, with the Military Wives advancing on the charts and the TV series The Choir finding vocal talent in the unlikeliest of places. Rebecca Day finds we are in fine voice locally, too, when she meets some of the many choirs based in and around Bishopston.

Singing in the shower is one thing, but building the courage to sing our hearts out in public can be a daunting prospect. We often doubt our voices and believe they’re not good enough.

But a host of choirs in the Bishopston area are providing a perfect opportunity for aspiring vocalists to build their self-confidence with a group of like-minded people, taking away the fear and bringing back the fun.

The Stepford Singers – founded in 2008 by Fran Bolton – has become known for its lively rehearsals, harmonious voices and flamboyant stagewear. With everything taught by ear, Fran explains that there are no auditions and the ability to read music isn’t essential. The all-female singing group, which currently has around 50 members, encourages women to set their “inner diva” free and discover their hidden talent.

“I wanted to sing in the afternoons while my children were at school,” says Fran. “I quickly discovered that there were plenty of other mums who felt the same, as well as women who were working part-time or retired - so I decided to make Stepford Singers happen.”

Also keen to encourage people to “just get out there” is Bristol musician Tom Jones, who set up Out There Music in 2007. The group is made up of a community choir, children’s choir, chamber choir and an orchestra.

“We have a very simple philosophy: everyone can play their part,” says Tom. “There are no auditions which really means that anyone can join in and share their love of music.”

The established Avon Harmony Barbershop Chorus – formed in 1975 by nine women – is a choir group that promotes making music and having fun, while working hard to improve the female vocalists’ standard of singing at their rehearsals at Fairfield School.

Directed by Alex de Bruin, the group has performed at various prestigious venues and events, including Colston Hall and the World Wine Fair, while also taking part in competitions nationwide.

The social aspect of singing is key to Kathryn Sadler who leads Bishop Road Community Choir, which was set up four years ago. With no audition necessary, the choir prides itself on being very sociable and open to all abilities with styles to suit all tastes, from pop and gospel, to world music and classical. Everything is taught by ear and no one is expected to learn the words off by heart. Songs are mainly sung with piano accompaniment, played by their pianist Geoff.

“Our members come along for enjoyment, friendship and satisfaction, as well as singing,” says Kathryn. “Singing is reputed to release endorphins in the brain, and we’ve certainly noticed among us a sense of well-being following rehearsals and, in particular, concerts.” 

So singing is good for you –and it seems science might agree. According to a recent study by Norwegian researchers, singing in unison could have benefits for the heart. They discovered that choristers’ heart rates slowed down and gradually began to synchronise, enhancing social bonds and encouraging closer connections within the group.

So whether for fun, friendship, to hone vocal skills or for health, local singing groups are ready to help the people of Bishopston and beyond find their voice.