Sing all your cares away

NEW CHOIR. . . .Choirmistress Siobhan Heaney pictured with the new Hazelbank/Ballymagroarty Community Choir at their first rehearsal in St. Eithne's Primary School on Thursday night. 0802JM31
NEW CHOIR. . . .Choirmistress Siobhan Heaney pictured with the new Hazelbank/Ballymagroarty Community Choir at their first rehearsal in St. Eithne's Primary School on Thursday night. 0802JM31

The sound of twelve women and one man singing Beyonce’s ‘All The Single Ladies’ is something that the people of Hazelbank and Ballymagroarty will become very familiar with over the coming weeks.

Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Choir enjoyed its first ever rehearsal on Thursday night in St. Eithne’s Primary School.

Getting in some practice during Thursday night's first rehearsal of the Ballymagroarty/Hazelbank Community Choir are Gary Breslin, Diana King, Susan Toland and Aileen Tester. 0802JM32

Getting in some practice during Thursday night's first rehearsal of the Ballymagroarty/Hazelbank Community Choir are Gary Breslin, Diana King, Susan Toland and Aileen Tester. 0802JM32

The choir was born out of singing project that ran for eight weeks in the local community last year and as a result of its success, local residents and community workers came up with the idea of putting together a choir.

Geraldine Ainsley, Ballymagroarty Hazelbank Community Partnership (BHCP) Neighbourhood Regeneration Officer said the whole point of the new choir is to promote a sense of well-being within the local community.

“I have to stress, we are not out to try and compete with any of the professional choirs in Derry - we are out to have fun and enjoy ourselves.

“The project is being funded by the City of Culture and the Public Health Agency and it’s all about showing the people of Hazelbank and Ballymagroarty how to have fun and sing at the same time,” said Geraldine.

Pictured during Thursday night's rehearsal are pianist Aideen Hughes, choirmistress Siobhan Heaney with members of the choir, from left, Noreen Arnold, Kay Hunt, Geraldine Ainsley and Anne Douglas. 0802JM33

Pictured during Thursday night's rehearsal are pianist Aideen Hughes, choirmistress Siobhan Heaney with members of the choir, from left, Noreen Arnold, Kay Hunt, Geraldine Ainsley and Anne Douglas. 0802JM33

Joining the choir is completely free of charge and the group will meet on a fortnightly basis in St. Eithne’s P.S. in Hazelbank.

There are no auditions and the only criteria is that anyone looking to join must be over the age of 16.

“At the moment, most of our singers are women but we have one man in our ranks - God love him,” joked Geraldine.

“We’d be really keen to hear from more men - the more people we have in the choir, the better.”

Ballymagroarty mother of two, Aileen Tester, is a member of the choir and said the reason she decided to get involved was because she wanted to try out something completely new.

“I took part in the eight week singing programme last year and really, really enjoyed it.

“The local people and community workers managed to keep some sort of singing programme going and it’s been great fun.

“When I heard that Geraldine had helped to secure funding from the Culture Company and Public Health Agency for a community choir I was over the moon.

“I am in no way a good singer but I find that singing helps me feel good. I have lupus and sometimes it can be difficult but I find that taking part in singing really benefits me. I can’t wait for us to start rehearsals - it’s going to be great fun.

“It’s good for women like me who have children because when I come to rehearsals I stop being mammy for the night and I am Aileen again.”

Aileen said that when she’s not busy singing with the rest of the group she practices her technique at home in front of her two young sons, six year-old Callum and five year-old Ronan.

“Like I said I am not the greatest singer in the world but unlike ‘Britain Has Got Talent’, my two boys have yet to give me three Xs so I will carry on,” she laughed.

Pauline Daniels is from Ballmagroarty and singing in a choir is something she is familiar with.

“I was in my school choir - that was many years ago,” she joked.

“I was also in the Derry City choir but I am really excited about this one. We are hoping that the choir will be made up of people from both Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank but if people from outside of the area want to join too they will be more than welcome - we even have a woman from the Waterside coming to rehearsals tomorrow night.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously and when we get up and running we will be singing anything from ‘All The Single Ladies’ to ‘Lean On Me’.”

The Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Choir is facilitated by Siobhan Heaney of SingTonicity.

“Siobhan is amazing,” said Geraldine.

“She really knows what she is doing and sometimes when we are warming up she would get us to make animal sounds - it’s very funny and afterwards the barriers are gone and everyone is comfortable in one another’s company.

“The choir is all about having fun and going on a journey of self discovery through song. If anyone wants to join then all they have to do is get in contact,” she added.

If you are interested in joining the Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Choir contact Geraldine Ainsley on 02871 271977 or email: geraldine.bhcp@btinternet.com