How joining a choir made me happy

In bleak old January, I finally took the plunge and joined a choir. My friend Rob had been telling me I should join for a good couple of years, and I knew I had a relatively free few months, and popped along to the taster session for Soul of the City choir in Brighton with one of my best pals Sarah.

I was in my school’s gospel choir (no, I’m not religious – it just got me out of form on a Thursday morning), and I always enjoyed that, and I’m always singing to myself with not a whole lot of style but a lot of enthusiasm, and knowing I wouldn’t have to audition was massively appealing to me. I love singing but hate rejection, so knowing they had to take me no matter my skill level was ideal.

Choir really has made Tuesday evenings the highlight of my week. There is something so uplifting about singing with a group of friendly strangers, and fortunately Soul of the City’s choir leader, Vanessa, picks amazing songs. This term we did Zombie, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Love Runs Out, Whatever, I’ve Got The Music In Me and my personal favourite: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. A lot of people equate choirs with dreary, plodding music, but I particularly love turning rock songs into something so gorgeous. I think everyone in my life is slightly sick of hearing me singing the ‘Heyyyyy ohhhhh, AAAAAAAOOOOOOW’ part from Zombie and other people’s solos (no, I’m not brave enough to sing a solo part on stage just yet, so for now I’m confining that to my bedroom and drunk walks home from the pub), so sorrynotsorry about that.

pre choir
A civilised vegan dinner is part of mine and Sarah’s pre-choir ritual

Now… yesterday we did our two spring term gigs. This was my first time performing on a stage since school. The weird thing was, while we were waiting to start our rehearsal in the beautiful venue, I was absolutely desperate to get up on stage and sing.

Why is this weird? Because as I’ve briefly mentioned on Twitter recently, I have struggled immensely with anxiety for the last six months (much longer, really, but it all came to a head late last year). October Kayleigh couldn’t have got up on stage in a million years. October Kayleigh probably couldn’t even have sat in the audience in the dark at her worst. But April Kayleigh is different. April Kayleigh just wants to sing.

In fact, there have been a few times in the last few months that I’ve turned up to choir practice feeling riddled with anxiety – the racing heart, the light headedness, the general sense of dread, all for no real reason. But I’ve not wanted to miss choir, so I’ve gone along and within minutes, felt infinitely better. The fact you have to regulate your breathing to sing properly helps, but a huge part of it is the fact that for a group of a hundred or so ‘non-singers’, we sound BLOODY INCREDIBLE. Sometimes when we really nail a harmony I get chills, and I love hearing everyone’s parts come together and layer into something magical. It sounds so flippant, but it really is difficult to listen to the anxious thoughts when you’re focusing on being part of something like that.

On another level, joining the choir has made me happy because I’ve FINALLY stuck with a hobby. There was the gym (got bored), the art supplies I bought (I love art, but I haven’t touched them yet), baking (I do still bake, but sporadically), but singing feels like a really important part of my life now. We have two weeks off now over Easter, and I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my Tuesday nights until then.

Soul of the City choir
Thank you Rob Tyler for letting me steal this photo from the Soul of the City choir spring gig!

If you’re in the Brighton area and interested in joining, there are two free tasters coming up in April, or sign up for pub choir (which is as great as it sounds – we learn an entire song in harmony in an hour and a half and have a drink or three to ease us along). But even if you’re based somewhere else and want a new hobby to improve your health, lift your spirits and make you happier, I really cannot recommend joining a choir enough. It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent years, and I’m already beyond excited for the summer term.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dana says:

    As a choir director myself, it fills my little teacher heart with joy to read about your experience with this wonderful group. Concentrating on music is one of my personal tricks to get my own brain to STFU for a few moments – I’m glad it’s worked for you too! And you’re right, your group sounds AWESOME. I hope you have many more happy hours of singing with your new friends!

    1. Aww, thank you! I really can’t wait to start singing again – what on earth am I meant to do with my two weeks away from choir?!

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