Connect Community Choir inspired by desire to offer singing to everyone

The Connect Community Choir in rehearsal at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish Centre in St Annes.  Pictured are members of the choir with musical director Phill Fairhurst and producer Jayne Kelly.
The Connect Community Choir in rehearsal at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish Centre in St Annes. Pictured are members of the choir with musical director Phill Fairhurst and producer Jayne Kelly.
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A choir born out of a desire to offer people the chance to sing regardless of their ability is going from strength to strength.

Jayne Kelly was inspired to set up Connect Community Choir by her friend Kath Whitehurst, who found solace in singing after being diagnosed with cancer.

Jayne, from Fylde and Wyre Social Inclusion Service, which is part of the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The choir was born out of a desire to bring together people who want the freedom to sing without being judged on their singing ability in a really friendly and supportive environment.

“My friend Kath and I wanted to break down the barriers of cost, accessibility and a fear of not being able to sing ‘well enough’ in public.

“She was very ill and knowing how much singing helped her cope with the effects of her illness, she asked me to try and set up a life-enhancing choir where everyone feels welcomed and valued regardless of their singing ability and that is what we’ve tried to do.”

Kath’s wish for an all-inclusive choir became a reality shortly before she died in Trinity Hospice in August last year.

Jayne, from Fairhaven, added: “We were delighted when the brilliant Phill Fairhurst, creative learning producer from the Grand Theatre, agreed to take us on.

“Very sadly, Kath wasn’t well enough to come to the first session of the choir but she knew it had taken place and was thrilled the choir had been formed whilst she was still with us. She would be so happy to know that everyone is always warmly welcomed, no-one’s singing is ever judged or commented upon and we now have over 40 brilliant members who come together to sing in friendship, which is exactly what she wanted.”

The group has already performed at Blackpool Central Library and a ‘Picnic in the Garden’ event where £350 was raised for local community groups and Crohn’s UK.

Michelle Kane, reader development officer for adults at Blackpool Libraries, said: “We loved having the choir in to sing. I found it an incredibly moving and uplifting experience.”

People are asked to make a donation of what they can afford with a guide of giving £1 to £3 per session to cover the choir’s costs, but anyone can attend even if they can’t afford to make a donation.

Jayne added: “We have received wonderful support from Connect More peer support group and Fylde Soroptimists.

“I know Kath would be so proud that the choir she wanted so much to be part of, gives everyone the opportunity to participate in such a life-affirming, low-cost and enjoyable activity.

“It’s a great way to feel all the health benefits singing can give you from reducing anxiety and stress to improving lung capacity and heart health.

“But most of all, it simply makes you feel good so please come and join us!”

Connect Community Choir meets every Tuesday morning from 10am until 11.30am at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish Centre on St Alban’s Road, St Annes.

For more information call Jayne on 07814138120.