Mary's already shared her Slimming World journey, which she discovered thanks to her involvement in the Rock Choir. But the choir has played a big part in her wellbeing too, so we asked her for more about that:
I stumbled into Rock Choir by accident because I work shifts and we don't get the same night off each week.
By fluke I had a Monday night off, so I picked up a leaflet, thinking about going bell ringing and I just saw 'Rock Choir, no audition, come along for a free taster session'.
I do like music; I don't think of myself as a good singer, but I'm OK. I was really nervous the first time I went, I was worried it would be formal and that everyone would be reading music. As soon as I walked in, a lady said hello and invited me to sit next to her and said 'what part do you sing'? I didn't have a clue. Anyway, we're now the best of friends!
That night we sang 'Walking on Broken Glass' which I love, and it took me back to singing into my hairbrush, growing up! I love singing familiar songs, but when you add the harmony parts, you're learning something new too. There was none of this 'singing from sheets' and the biggest thing, even on that first night, was the laughter and the sharing. So I joined and within a few weeks I was singing at Liverpool Echo Arena.
Sometimes, especially on a winter's night when it's cold and dark and I'm tired and stressed after work, I think 'I could do with a night off', but I go and come away feeling energised. I think it's down to a combination of things; I love singing and I'm sharing it with other people who love singing. I absolutely love being with other people who love doing the same thing; the experiences we have and the support for each other - inevitably lifelong friendships grow from all of this. It's about teamwork too - we all have our individual bits and we rely on each other to come in at the right time, it really builds togetherness.
I work hard and it's good to have a de-stressor; I do have the make the effort sometimes. I've learnt new singing techniques - my singing's improved and I've learnt breathing techniques; I believe I'm the best version of me singing now - but that's confidence as well.
All sorts of people go; teachers, doctors - everyone comes away saying 'I feel so much better for a good sing'.
The magic is that we're all doing something we all love, so that shared love and positivity...Despite feeling nervous before we go on stage and we all worry that we'll forget the words, we rarely make mistakes so it’s all right on the night!
The teacher is professionally trained and brilliant at bringing the best out of everybody in a fun way. The philosophy of the Rock Choir is that no one is tone deaf; everyone can sing - just have a go. The weekly sessions are our practices, where we dissect the songs and learn the different parts and the movements to go with them.
The Rock Choir are partnered with Nordoff Robbins, a charity that provides musical therapy for vulnerable people of all ages; children with autism, adults with dementia; sometimes we raise money for the charity. We were recently invited to record a track at Abbey Road - an amazing, once in a lifetime experience - and we actually sounded really good! We've sung at the Royal College of Music and at Sparkle in the Park in Manchester, we've performed at Proms in the Park in Hyde Park, where there were 8,000 of us and we sang with Josh Grogan, Bros, Gladys Knight and Michael Ball - we're not only having fun, but we're making a difference to people. Every Rock Choir in the country has sung together at Birmingham NEC - we all learn the same songs and the same actions, so when there were 12,000 of us all together, the joy brought us all together.
You definitely get taken out of your comfort zone, but there's no pressure to perform at events, you can just go along to the weekly sessions if you want; everyone's got commitments and that's totally accepted. There are some really good soloists, but they want to be soloists and have volunteered to do it. Your Rock Choir can be what you want it to be for you, but there's a lot more on offer than just an evening a week, if you want it.
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