PADBURY’S Tina Smith first saw the Spirit of the Streets Choir at Wanneroo Central shopping centre five years ago.
“They sang some lovely songs and I was smitten; they made me happy and I decided I would join them,” she said.
For the past two years, Mrs Smith has been part of the WA choir that aims to improve lives and break down social barriers.
“It’s a most unusual choir, with members from 35 years of age to 85 years,” she said.
“Everyone is welcome and we support each other.
“Our individual differences disappear when we start to sing; it’s like magic.”
She said the choir was “very therapeutic”.
“It has helped me with different things in my life,” she said.
“I lost my husband and I was very sad. Some days I’d think ‘I can’t get out of bed’ but then I’d think ‘hang on, it’s choir day, I’ve got to go’.
“I’ve been in choirs all my life but this is unique.”
Fellow chorister Lorraine Frendin, of Marangaroo, has been a member for almost six years.
“Just before I retired, I thought I had better plan something to do,” she said.
“I suffer from anxiety and depression and thought I could go down the slippery slope if I don’t have an interest.
“I saw the Spirit of the Streets Choir on TV and thought that would be something I’d like to do and I’ve been with them ever since.”
She agreed with Mrs Smith’s sentiments of it being a “unique choir”.
“Most people have had challenges in their lives in one way or another,” she said.
“We accept anybody, you don’t have to audition. We just ask that you come in fun and friendship. For people with mental health issues, disability, unemployment, they find the support really positive.”
Ms Frendin said the songs they sang varied but were “all quite relevant”.
“Songs like What A Wonderful World, Fix You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” she said.
“One of our choir members also writes songs for us and we have three of hers in our repertoire.
“One of them is called Survivors and it’s about the people in the choir. It’s a lovely song about hope and coping.
“We also do the odd ABBA song or The Beatles or even ACDC.”
This year, the choir celebrates its 10th anniversary, going from a handful of members in 2007 to now having 85 voices.
Founder Bernard Carney said the project started after a chance meeting with Big Issue Magazine manager Rachel Pemberton.
Mr Carney had learned about the Choir of Hard Knocks for homeless and disadvantaged people in Melbourne and decided he also wanted to use music as a healing force.
Ms Pemberton asked if they could start their own choir in WA with Big Issue vendors.
“I’d worked extensively with choirs so we decided to give it a go and here we are,” Mr Carney said.
“I cannot believe it has been 10 years.
“I could never have predicted the extent to which the choir has had good healing effects on people’s lives.
“It is simply the best musical project I’ve ever done.”
To mark the occasion, the choir will kick off Sing for Health Week (May 6-13) with a special performance at Perth Concert Hall from 3pm on Saturday, May 6.
Also taking part is the Burundi Peace Band, Harry’s Anonymous, Starlight Hotel and WA Deaf Arts, with the entire concert being interpreted in Auslan.
Tickets from www.perthconcerthall.com.au or call 9231 9999.
Spirit of the Streets Choir rehearses Tuesdays 2-3.30pm at St Alban’s Anglican Church in Highgate.
Pass the Song Along
PEOPLE across WA are encouraged to be part of ‘passing the song along’ for Sing for Health Week from May 6-13.
People can learn Pass the Song Along and then sing it in their community to keep it moving.
“We’ll be tracking the journey of the song through social media across WA,” Spirit of the Streets Choir founder Bernard Carney said.
“We already have various renditions of the song and are expecting all kinds of versions including rock, blues and reggae.”
It has also been translated into Mandarin and Nyungar and there are plans for it to be translated into other languages.