Local community choir based at St Peter’s Church, Carshalton
There’s increasing evidence that singing regularly as part of a group is good for your general health and wellbeing. People report feeling positive during the singing session, and their positive mood continues afterwards. Singing can help if you feel depressed, anxious or stressed and regular group singing makes people feel less isolated and part of a community.
St Helier Voices is a weekly initiative where, for two hours (with a break for refreshments), local residents get together at St Peter’s Church in Bishopsford Road, Carshalton and learn how to sing as part of a choir.
The choir, made up of people aged between 13 and 73 years, is led by Andrew Garrido, a professional, award winning, musician. Choir practise is held every Tuesday, during term time. It has grown out of the successful Café drop-in sessions organised at the churches of St Peter’s and Bishop Andrewes
The choir aims to tackle loneliness and isolation on the St Helier estate – one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country – where many people have been struggling with mental and physical health problems, with some residents living in isolation with little, if any, social interaction.
The situation for a lot of residents was made worse by the pandemic and looking forward there are now concerns for people financially due to increasing living costs. But initiatives like St Helier Voices can have a huge impact on people’s sense of wellbeing, and people can also be signposted to local help and support as a result of attending.
“Some of our members have, in recent times, lost their long-time partner (husband or wife) and the choir provides an opportunity for them to do something different, make new friends and have fun. Many of our choristers tell us that they don’t always feel like coming but they leave feeling ‘lifted’ and in a better mood than when they arrived.”Reverend Tracy Marlow
Hayley Humphreys, Pioneer Evangelist said: We have a break for tea and coffee in between singing and then space for people to share good news, or local events. This is where some have found out about the household support fund, which has been invaluable for those worried about the cost of living crisis. We have also been able to signpost people to local services, one lady was helped by the Sutton Crisis Café – which was a lifeline for her.”
Theresa, member of the choir, said: “I love attending St Helier Voices. I’ve made some good friends – it’s a really friendly environment. The choir gives me something to look forward to now that the cold and dark nights are drawing in. Otherwise, I would be sitting alone in my house. Plus, Andrew has actually made us sound good. The fun and laughter this event gives all attendees cannot be emphasised enough.”
Dr Dino Pardhanani, local Sutton GP and Chair of the Sutton Place Partnership Board, said: “As a keen musician myself, I am very aware of the benefits of music on people’s mental health and wellbeing – especially when people sing together in a group like the St Helier Voices community choir. I am delighted to see how popular it is becoming.
“This is an excellent example of the prevention element of Sutton’s Health and Care Plan in action.”
Singing and being part of a group gives people confidence and a sense of achievement and can motivate them to try other activities. Their sense of wellbeing improves and singing regularly can have a positive impact on the health of people which long-term lung conditions.
“As part of the warm-up we do, Andrew, our choirmaster, has taught us breathing techniques, I am sure that my breathing is better as a result! I can breathe out for longer than I could when we started!”Sue, member of the choir
Tackling the health inequalities experienced by some of our residents is a key programme of work in Sutton – it forms a major part of the Sutton Health and Care Plan and the NHS Core 20 plus programme of work being undertaken across South West London. The St Helier Voices Community Choir project is a partnership initiative between the St Helier Centre of Mission and South West London Integrated Care System.