Monday, 13 October 2014

Giving Voice

Stephen Harris
Almost 5 years ago Stephen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As well as the many physical effects of the disease, Stephen has witnessed for himself a drop in confidence. Getting out and about was never a problem before but now Stephen feels anxious when he is in the public domain.

Each week he travels from the outskirts of Leeds to attend the Giving Voice Choir at Holy Trinity Church in Leeds city centre. The choir, which meets weekly, was set up by speech and language therapist at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Wendy Neill. People with neurological conditions and their carers are welcome to join the choir which runs every Tuesday between 6.30pm and 8pm.

For an hour and an half, Stephen feels comfortable in the company of people who are in a similar situation to him and knowing they are there for one purpose; to sing. Although part of a choir during his childhood, it has been a long time since Stephen sang in public. On Saturday 4 October he performed as part of the choir at the Forget Me Knot Festival. The festival was in support of the Alzheimer’s Society, one of the organisations which support the choir.

Speaking about his condition, Stephen says: “For me one of the first signs of Parkinson’s was a change in my voice. In my head I could hear myself speaking loudly when in fact I was speaking with a low, soft tone. 

“By joining the choir I have seen an improvement to my speech as well as a growth in confidence. It has also gives me an opportunity to spend time with my son, Tom, as he accompanies me and we’ll often get a bite to eat beforehand; it gives my wife a break too.

“Although there are many choirs in existence I was more inclined to try this one as it offered more support. It’s enjoyable to be around people who have knowledge of Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions. Even though I travel a little way to get to the church, I see it as an opportunity to help myself physically and mentally. Not only are we singing, we are laughing and during the break we get a chance to chat to one another. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of joining.”

Members do not need to audition or have past experience of singing in a choir, just a passion for song and enthusiasm to be part of this inclusive choir. Percussion instruments will be available for those preferring to use these as their musical vehicle. For further information about the choir, email or call 0113 220 8528.

The choir is run in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, Parkinson’s UK, Carers Leeds, Multiple Sclerosis Society and Arts@Trinity .

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