Spirit of the Streets (SOS), founded seven years ago by Perth musician Bernard Carney and inspired by Melbourne’s Choir of Hard Knocks, comprises about 40 marginalised men and women, most of whom have a mental illness.
‘Their situations have kept them out of the workforce so they don’t have much money and need to deal with problems like bipolar, schizophrenia or clinical depression that may have led to episodes of alcoholism and drug addiction,’ Mr Carney said.
‘Others have different degrees of autism and come to rehearsals and gigs with carers.
‘One autistic man doesn’t communicate at all apart from singing and he sings very well; in fact, he has perfect pitch.’
The troupe, which rehearses every week at St Alban’s Anglican Church, is in high demand, performing about 50 gigs a year from small gatherings to big conventions.
‘Singing in the choir boosts our members’ confidence and esteem. We have new people who are quiet, like a blind, autistic man who doesn’t say or sing anything, just rocks on his chair, but in six months could be conversing with others,’ Mr Carney said.
‘We have people that were like him two years ago and now everybody knows their story and understands and accepts them.
‘People feel secure when they come here, like they are among a family.’
He is calling for donors to help fund a SOS trip to the Dunsborough SongFest in November. He needs to raise about $12,000 to pay for members’ transport, accommodation and meals.
SOS will perform at a fundraising gig at the Perth Town Hall on October 20.
The next concert is at Osborne Autumn Club in Osborne Park on June 26.
Make a donation at www.spiritofthestreets choir.org.au.