Having the option to perform and share the memory of music is important
I remember the first concert I performed at with Sing with Us Cwmbran. I had been attending for a few weeks by the time their annual concert was due in St Woolos Cathedral in Newport. I had become quite accustomed to turning up and sitting at the back with Roger, Tina, David and Co. Learning songs like 'Lean on Me' and the Tina Turner classic, 'Rolling on a River'. I was comfortable and content that I was surrounded by people who appreciated the choir and the purpose for its existence.
When the concert came round I didn't feel like I necessarily belonged. I was after all, a member of staff that was attending the choir for both work and pleasure. Being able to relieve pressure from, Ruth, the Choir Leader by having the more in-dept conversations with choristers allowing Ruth to focus on the session at hand.
The week before the concert I was asked / pleaded with, by the choristers to attend as "I knew what I was doing" (they're definitely better than they think they are mind) and it would be a pleasure to have me sing with them. I was touched.
I still didn't know who did, or did not, have cancer in the room but it didn't matter. We were the Sing with Us choir preparing for a concert. That's all that mattered. We worked hard as a section and as a choir to make the best sound possible with Ruth's guidance. Whatever emotions and complications we'd all experienced in the day didn't matter; we had a new purpose.
I dusted off my suit and helped set up the event, getting choristers to sit in the right place for ease of access, laying out programs and generally being on hand to answer an last minute questions from choristers. Being a member of staff certainly made me a point of call while Ruth was doing the important things like getting the sound right!
We took to the stage and as the person responsible for pressing play on the iPod I was at the back just like in rehearsal. It's amazing how when I'm ready to perform I both immediately forget everything, and remember everything. It's that nervousness and anxiety that distracts you from everything and keeps you focused and ready.
We sang through our set to wonderful applause and Roger leaned over to me and simply said "welcome to the club". It was such a touching moment and gave me an incredible sense of identity within the choir to put myself in that uncomfortable position of singing publicly and being 'accepted'.
It's moments like that which make me realise how important our Sing with Us choirs are. I'm an average person of good health. I don't have cancer and don't have the social isolation that comes with a diagnosis. But I was engulfed into this group of like-minded people all looking to distract, or even embrace their cancer to make the most out of living and gain a pure connection with people around them. This connection is made in the weekly rehearsals but it is set in stone during a performance.
I feel passionately about our Sing with Us choirs and the identity they can bring to someone looking to find themselves, their new self. In my opinion, Sing with Us is a great vehicle to achieve this and I feel immense pride that I can play a part in bringing Us to the people that need it, where they need it.