A UNIQUE choir that is improving lives and breaking down social barriers is about to hit a major milestone this month.
Experienced musician Bernard Carney and vendors of The Big Issue magazine formed the Spirit of the Streets Choir in 2007 for people who were homeless or unemployed.
But Mr Carney said before long, other disadvantaged people joined with the choir swelling to 85 members from all walks of life, many who have experienced high levels of social exclusion or stigma.
“We have people in the choir with autism or they may have issues with bipolar or schizophrenia,” he said. “Sometimes people may disappear for months before they come back because of significant challenges they deal with on a day to day basis.
“What is great about the choir is that when everyone comes together, the singing breaks the barriers down. It’s an instant icebreaker.”
South Guildford resident Daniel Leary said he looked forward to the choir each week as an antidote to ongoing treatments to manage two rare re neurological conditions.
“I have treatment at Royal Perth Hospital every second Friday which leaves me feeling unwell for a few days,” he said.
“There is no cure for these diseases so the choir really picks me up when I am feeling low.
“It also helps me remember I am not the only one dealing with medical issues, there are a lot of people in similar situations.”
Greenmount resident Bob Maughan, who has Parkinson’s Disease, said the choir had given him the confidence to perform karaoke at pubs on Saturday evenings.
“I lobbed in to a rehearsal in Highgate one day and they made me feel so welcome,” he said.
“This is a bunch of people from different walks of life and countries and they all seemed to get on well. It doesn’t matter what sort of state you are in, they calm you down and get you going again.”
Mr Carney said music had a powerful healing force.
“I’d worked extensively with choirs and I could never have predicted the extent to which the choir has had healing effects on people’s lives,” he said.
“It is simply the best musical project I’ve ever done. It’s also remarkable how close people are in the choir – they really look out for each other.
“It’s all about people having a good time in a supportive environment and certainly for some members of the choir it is their kind of family.”
The Spirits of the Streets Choir will kick off Sing for Health Week with its 10th birthday event at the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday, May 6 at 3pm. Tickets from www.perthconcerthall.com.au or call 9231 9999.