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What it's like to sing in a choir at Christmas: Viva Musica choir, Stourbridge

By Heather Large | Weekend | Published:

Nothing says Christmas like the sound of a choir singing.

Up and down the country groups are warming up their voices to bring us the traditional carols and festive tunes that we all love so much.

For members of the Viva Musica choir, based in Stourbridge, being in a choir is a chance to share a love of singing and to perform a wide variety of different music from choral and classical to show tunes and pop.

And, at this time of year, it is extra special because their annual Christmas concert will be helping to boost people’s spirits in the run up to the festive season.

The choir, which is currently rehearsing for the event which is one of many performances held throughout the year, has around 70 members aged from their early 20s to their 80s.

Members sing their hearts out on Tuesday evenings at Ham Dingle Primary School and among them is Lorraine Newman who joined almost eight years ago with her mother Pat Thompson.

“I had always loved singing when I was at school and was in school choirs but I hadn’t done anything for about 20 years.

“My mum was looking for a hobby and this was something that we could enjoy together,” says Lorraine, who works at Sunfield School in Clent.

The 47-year-old enjoys singing as part of a group and having the support of other voices around her.

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“I’m no soloist but singing in a choir means I can still sing and perform without being on show.

“I’ve made so many friends through the choir. The ladies all go out for meals and we have social events throughout the year. It’s a real community and a special choir to be part of.

“Everybody supports and helps each other. If we are stuck with anything, there is always someone to help.

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“The Christmas concert is a lovely concert to perform. It’s really festive and really nice way to start the season.

“I would tell anyone thinking of joining a choir to go for it.

“My only regret is that I wasted 10 years thinking about and not doing anything about it. joining the choir is one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she adds.

Accompanist for the choir is Andrew Biggs, who is also director of music to the Summerhill Choral Society and head of music at Summerhill School in Kingswinford.

“I enjoy the breadth of the music because there is such a variety and I enjoy choral music. I enjoy the friendship of the choir and the chance to meet people with a love of singing and music,” explains the 54-year-old, who has been Viva Musica’s pianist since 1995.

Sarah Fellows, aged 32, has been singing with Viva Musica for around 10 years having learning of the choir through Andrew.

“I have been singing with Andrew since I was 11 as he was my music teacher at school so I have known about Viva for a long time.

“After I finishing university I was looking for a choir to join, I asked if I could join Viva and I’ve been here ever since.

“It’s a really fun choir, everyone is so friendly and we’ve got a huge repertoire of music like classical, religious, show tunes and pop. It’s great to be able to sing lots of different styles.

“I just love singing, it makes me happy. They say singing is like exercise and releases endorphins.

“When I’m singing I can forget about everything else going on in my life or the world,” adds Sarah, who works as a heritage activities officer at Dudley Canal Trust.

Viva Musica was formed 1989 by chairman John Gripton and his wife and musical director Rosemary Phillips, who trained at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

“It started as what we thought would be a one-off concert but people liked it so much that we’ve been going ever since,” explains 68-year-old semi-retired investment manager John.

“I like singing and creating music so that’s why I enjoy being in a choir. I’ve found it a good break from work and a good way to relax. We’ve also got a great group of people so that makes it enjoyable as well,” he adds.

Rosemary, who performed extensively in opera and worked with the late Sir Peter Pears and Tito Gobbi, said the Christmas concert was one of the highlights of the year for the choir.

“We will start with the more classical and religious songs in the first half before moving on to likes of Jingle Bells and Let It Snow in the second half.

“We try to include a range of music because while it’s a wonderful time of the year for many, for some it’s a very difficult time of year so we try to strike that balance with the music.

“We have a children’s choir joining us as well as Father Christmas giving out presents so it’s a real family occasion too.

“The Christmas concert is always very popular and we haven’t changed the format much over the years because people like it.

“For some people it’s the only time of the year they go to church because the music holds lots of memories for them. It’s a very emotive time of year,” she explains.

Viva Musica’s Christmas concert will be held at St James’s Church in Wollaston at 7pm on December 16 when they will be joined by the choir of St James’s CE Primary School in Wollaston.

Tickets cost £10, including wine and mince pies, and are available by calling 01562 883480 or 0121 550 5581. The choir, which also raises money for charity, will be holding an open evening on Tuesday, January 23, at 7.30pm at Ham Dingle Primary School in Pedmore, Stourbridge. For more information about the choir see www.viva-musica.co.uk

l To watch the choir perform the Hallelujah Chorus see www.expressandstar.com

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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