A community choir run by the New Room in Bristol has secured a £900 grant from Arts Council England to enable it to expand its community outreach and offer opportunities to improve wellbeing for new audiences in central Bristol.
The choir in lockdown
The choir, which normally meets weekly in term-time in the historic John Wesley’s Chapel in Broadmead, has continued singing throughout lockdown via Zoom. It was set up in 2017 with Heritage Lottery funding as part of a new programme of activities which accompanied the opening of the New Room’s state-of-the-art visitor centre.
With community outreach high on its agenda, the new grant will enable the choir to expand its community outreach activities, and offer opportunities to improve wellbeing for new audiences.
Kate Rogers, community engagement officer at the New Room, says: “The original HLF funding for the choir runs out in December so this grant gives us the financial security to go forward, which is such great news in the current climate.”
Choir leaders Meg Brand and Judit Soler-Almendros, who both have training as music therapists, say they’re ‘delighted’ by the news.
Meg Brand says: “Wellbeing is central to the vision for our choir and, following this period of social isolation, projects like ours will be more important than ever, supporting the rebuilding of our city-centre community by allowing people to gather together to sing joyful songs.
“Research shows the benefits of group singing include reducing stress and feelings of loneliness and isolation and comments from our choir members shows how true this has been during lockdown, with feedback such as: It’s a great way of meeting even though we can’t meet in person; I’m on my own so this gives me something to look forward to each week and it’s lovely to see everybody; and This is a lovely way to keep in touch and I appreciate it very much, thank you.”
When social distancing permits, Meg Brand and Judit Soler-Almendros, with the support of the New Room community team, plan to extend their outreach to the wider community, hospitals, and care homes, as well as those working in the city centre.
Judit Soler-Almendros said: “The choir is open to all, regardless of experience or circumstance. The aim of the choir is to enable everybody to be able to come together and enjoy singing, and all the benefits this provides.
“Some members who recently joined us were recommended by their support workers or attend with carers, and it’s great to see how everybody who comes to the rehearsals is able to experience the joy of making music and to feel part of the choir. The grant gives us the chance to widen our reach to others who may benefit in this way.
“The grant will enable us to more effectively measure the impact the choir is having on a wider audience, learn how best to support our community in the changing landscape of Broadmead, deepen partnerships by introducing new choir ‘ambassador’ roles and extend our core offer with the addition of wellbeing workshops.”
Fundraising performances and busking
In due course, the New Room community choir will hold a series of fundraising performances and busking in the city centre, with a view to match-funding the funds received from the Arts Council.
The choir’s repertoire includes a variety of styles, mostly based on suggestions from members. Lockdown rehearsals have included uplifting numbers such as Three Little Birds, Here Comes The Sun, Imagine, Stand By Me and I Could Have Danced All Night.
The choir normally meets between 12noon-1pm every Wednesday during school term-time, and the current term runs until Wednesday 15 July 2020.
New members may join at any time – no auditions, no need to read music, everyone is welcome. Membership costs are just £3 per rehearsal, with all fees going to support the work of the choir. Further details from Meg or Judit by emailing email@example.com or on the New Room website at www.newroombristol.org.uk/communitychoir