If you can talk, you can sing. And if you can sing, no matter how badly, you can join Rock Choir – a national phenomenon that’s hitting the high notes right here in the Midlands
Singing is good for the soul, so the saying goes. And science certainly agrees that breaking into song helps improve our mood. The research is conclusive – singing relieves stress, is a natural anti-depressant and boosts mental alertness and well-being.
Maybe that’s why Rock Choir is so popular, with more then 350 choirs and 30,000 members. A national organisation broken down into local choirs across the country, Rock Choir was established 15 years ago by musician and singer Caroline Redman Lusher. What started with an ad in a coffee shop for singers and a group of just 70 people has expanded into a highly rewarding experience for the singers and a highly successful business.
Described in the media as a “community singing phenomenon that is sweeping the country” and “the world’s largest contemporary choir”, the Rock Choir bug has bitten here in Birmingham and the West Midlands, too.
Local Rock Choir leader Sonia Eyre looks after the choirs in Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Dorridge, Aldridge and Lichfield. Sonia is a classically trained singer who gained her Masters in Early Music Performance from Trinity College of Music, London. Starting at the age of six, she learned piano, violin and saxophone to grade 8 standard. She has performed vocal solos in venues such as Birmingham Symphony Hall and Notre Dame, Paris.
After gaining her Masters in London, Walsall-born Sonia started looking for work and says she saw details for a job heading Rock Choir “in my home town”. She adds: “It was too good a chance turn down and now nine years later I am blessed with doing the job that I truly love.”
The key to Rock Choir seems rather odd at first. You don’t have to be able to sing to join. Or read music. “Everyone can sing, regardless of ability or age,” said Sonia. “No matter how bad you think you might be, we can teach you to become a singer. We say that the only exception is if someone is truly tone deaf – and the number of people who are tone deaf is very, very small.”
The Rock Choir formula is unique. Singing is learned by repetition, not from reading a music score, so anyone can sing harmonies. The first Rock Choir sessions in the Midlands started with 40 people and that number had grown to just under 600. All managed and led by hard-working Sonia who brings everyone together singing everything from pop and Motown to gospel classics.
Members have experiences unlike any other choirs and with many exciting opportunities. Local members joined other Rock Choir groups and took part in the BBC Proms in the Park at London’s Hyde Park appearing with the likes of Barry Mannilow, Chrissie Hynde and Jack Savoretti.
Sonia said: “The great thing is, if you can talk you can sing. I remember as a child I was told I couldn’t sing in the school choir! Some people will find it harder to sing than others, but that’s only natural. The main aim of Rock Choir is to improve everyone who joins in their signing but importantly in their health and well-being, too. We do take part in concerts – we have performed at the likes of Birmingham Symphony Hall, as well as in London – but no one is pressured to take part unless they want to.”
As well as taking part in the BBC Proms in the Park, other experiences range from recording at Abbey Road to appearing on national TV and radio shows and releasing a Christmas single – Happy Xmas (War is Over). “The experiences are all part of being part of something exciting and enjoyable and forging new friendships while pursuing a passion for singing, regardless of age and ability,” said Sonia. The youngest members can join Rock Choir at 14 as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The eldest members in Sonia’s groups are in their eighties.
“Some people have been with us since day one while others are newcomers. We do have more women than men, and we would really love it for more men to come along and join us,” said Sonia. So, come on guys! After all, who doesn’t like to sing…