WHEN Bernard Carney launched Spirit of the Streets Choir in 2007, his objective was simply to spread the joy of singing.
He had no idea his little Highgate group for the disadvantaged and socially isolated would grow to 70-plus members and touch so many lives.
“I didn’t have the objective to gather people with problems and then see if we could fix them,” he said.
“Helping others was just one of the side effects – we all enjoy ourselves with the music and as a result people gain skills, confidence and esteem.”
Carney, who has sung professionally for 40 years, gathered singers after approaching a member of independent magazine The Big Issue, sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised people.
“I asked them, ‘do you think your vendors would like to get together and have a bit of a sing?’” he said.
“I know that the power of music is just fantastic and it gets people into a team to do something together that is creative.
“From there it broadened out to people who didn’t sell the magazine but just heard about it and we then opened it up to include anybody who felt socially isolated.”
Carney said self-assurance was the key benefit for choir members, many of whom suffer mental illness and loneliness.
“We’ve got men and women now who stand up in front of a room full of business people and tell them a little bit about their lives,” he said.
“It’s interesting to see that shift happen – people who wouldn’t say boo to a goose in the rehearsals suddenly ask, ‘can I introduce that song?’
“We sing the Travelling Wilburys hit, End of the Line, and one woman recently introduced it, then mentioned that two or three years ago she thought her life had come to the end of the line.
“She added, ‘and then I found this choir and I’ve got these new friends and we do all these things and life is so much nicer.’ We all stood there with our jaws gaping because we didn’t know anything about her.”
Raising money for its two-yearly trip to Dunsborough Song Fest, the choir will perform a concert with the Spooky Men of the West Choir with ticket sales covering accommodation, bus hire and meals.
“It will be a very inspirational, moving afternoon,” Carney said.
“It’s emotional to see people with a lot of problems overcoming it all and having a great deal of fun.”
What: Spirit and Spooks Concert
Where: Perth Town Hall
When: October 25