Brought together through a shared love of singing, new community choir, The Welcome Choir, has set up shop in the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, meeting weekly as a ‘pop up’ collection of music enthusiasts. With no audition requirements or commitment to sign up long term to the Choir, singers can come and go as they please, allowing for flexibility and diversity in the group’s cohort.
Simon Harris and Betty Judd formed the Newtown-based choir as an avenue to foster individual wellbeing, closer community ties and the inclusion of people of all abilities. What began as a tiny gaggle of friends meeting regularly with a musical director has grown by word of mouth (and social media) into a group of more than 30 regulars who meet to sing well known pop repertoire, such as Adele, Fleetwood Mac, Outkast, Prince and Madonna.
At the heart of The Welcome Choir’s ethos is accessibility. Participants don’t need to be able to read music, nor do they need prior experience. “We want to offer a place that is also safe for greater diversity – people who are living on the streets, new migrants or asylum seekers or just people who need to find some human connection and something beautiful to lift them up once a week,” said Betty, one of the Choir’s founders.
“Community means a place of homecoming, a place of resilience and a place of challenge as well – the challenge to open yourself up to people that are different to you as well as finding solace in things that feel like home to you.”
Joan, one of the Choir’s regulars, says that she loves coming to choir to for its sense of community, and how caring and respectful individual members are with each other. “No matter what your singing ability is, there is no judgement, only encouragement. And when we get all the harmonies just right and the sound is soaring, endorphins are released, giving you a wonderful feeling.”
“Everyone can sing,” says Bek Jensen, the musical director of Welcome Choir. “It’s natural. Even when you’re speaking, you’re singing – your voice goes up and down. It’s just a question of learning technique. If you want to play a sport, you practise: you train your muscles to do the right thing. It’s the same with your voice.”