A new singing project that will help people to reconnect with others following COVID lockdowns got underway in the Coalfields area of Sunderland this month.

‘Find Your Voice’ with Unity Choir is the latest project from Houghton-based social enterprise The Singing Elf, and is aimed at building confidence, reducing loneliness and isolation, and bringing people together through singing.

Funded by Sunderland City Council, ‘Find Your Voice’ will offer fun and friendly singing tasters at locations across the Coalfields in September, followed by regular singing sessions in Kepier Hall, Houghton. The taster sessions take place in Philadelphia, Hetton, Easington Lane, New Herrington and Penshaw, and will be the first opportunity for many people to sing together in person since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Led by vocal tutors Rebecca McGarvie and Sinead Livingston, there will be a session every Tuesday evening, as well as some daytime sessions on other days. For those who don’t feel ready to come and sing in person just yet, the Tuesday sessions will also be available on Zoom, allowing people to stay connected from home.

The Singing Elf founder Rebecca said, “This pandemic has meant that it has been harder to keep connected with their community. Singing is an amazing way of coming together – it’s a really fun way to make new friends and build your confidence. We know people may feel nervous having been away from singing for so long, so these sessions are designed to ease you in with no pressure, promising escapism, laughter and friendship.”

People taking part in the free sessions will be greeted with a friendly face, a cup of tea and a chat. Rebecca and Sinead will then lead a gentle warm-up and introduction to get people moving and using their voice, before learning some new, upbeat songs. The project is suitable for anyone, from absolute beginners to more experienced singers. You don’t need to have been in a choir before or be able to read music to take part.

The health benefits of singing have been well publicised recently. As well as helping with breathing, posture, and general fitness, singing also boosts stress-busting endorphins, eases anxiety and strengthens the immune system – all things that are important to many people as the country starts to come out of lockdown. In particular, community singing is a great way to beat loneliness and connect with other people.

Sunderland City Council’s Executive Director of Neighbourhoods, Fiona Brown, said, Covid-19 and the related social restrictions may have presented challenges to many of the city’s residents, as they have been unable to see friends and family or take part in their usual hobbies and activities. As a council we are delighted to fund projects such as The Singing Elf as part of the Covid Social Isolation Programme, which supports the many fantastic groups who work hard to ensure people across the city have the support they need.” 

For a full list of sessions and to book a place, visit The Singing Elf website – www.thesingingelf.co.uk/unity.

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