Monday, 14 April 2014

Choral Celebration with Signing on the Edge with Asmarina Voices and Harmony - 4th April 2014

Image Credit: Space2

It was a privilege to be part of a choral celebration hosted at Oxford Place Centre, in Leeds City Centre, by Singing on the Edge, Asmarina Voices and Harmony community choirs.  Singing on the Edge has been established in November 2013 and this collaborated concert is the first one done in public.  It's believed it's the beginning of many positive things for those involved.

Singing on the Edge is a community choir made up by members who have experienced and recovering from mental health issues, addiction and homelessness.  The group meets on Friday afternoons and is co-ordinated by Helen Collins at Space2, a community development organisation promoting health and well being and community cohesion through the arts.  Space2 works in partnership with statutory and voluntary organisations.

A full supportive audience were present and Helen introduced the proceedings and gave an overview of the choir aims including the feel good factors from singing including happiness, joy, sense of belonging, escapism, positivity, confidence and well being.

Jane Edwardson, the choral director, introduced all the choirs with their first musical number, Singing For Joy.  Next Singing on the Edge sang Nina Simone's Feeling Good.  At the beginning the song was sang by a solo singer then joined by the rest of the choir.  These feel good songs make one change the way one thinks and look at life differently.  Evidence suggests and supports that singing making us feel better which agreed.  Singing lifts the burdens off our shoulders, the burdens evaporates in the air and the body and soul feels light!

The audience had an opportunity to participate in a feel good song before being introduced to Asmarina Voices, a choir for refugee women and part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse Community Arts Projects.  We were treated to their Wonder, a song full of wonder and longing! Jane next introduced Mango, a song demanding total participation.  A fun filled song with singing and clapping from all of us with a lot of laughs.

Harmony, a community choir in East Leeds, returned to the stage under the direction of Frances Bernstein.  A member gave an experience what it is like to be in a chorus and their rendition of Harmony followed.  One thinks of Harmony as a place, in a figurative sense, with one and all from all walks of life getting together to encourage one another.  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and a new challenging song for the choir, Peace Like A River, were sung.  Themes raised were of unity and support.  This followed on nicely to the next song, We Are Together, a song dedicated to an orphanage of HIV victims in South Africa.  The song composed highlighted togetherness.  The chorus concluded with Lean On Me.

All the choruses reunited for the final two songs which received maximum audience participation including dancing! First Sing A Little Boogie Together and finally a well known international song, which harmonised one all enjoying a memorable evening of choral celebration.

Feel good songs with a thriving choir joining up with two other choirs, for a wonderful concert absolutely deserved a big round of applause! A big thanks to the choruses and an enthusiastic audience!  The celebration positively raised awareness of mental health, addiction and homelessness and it's encouraging anyone affected to engage in the arts in order to improve one's health and well being.

Dawn Smallwood, 8th April 2014

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