All For One choir goes virtual to beat the virus

PODCAST: 18 minutes

HULL IS THIS editor Jerome Whittingham chats with founder and leader of the All For One family of choirs, Helen Garnett.

Undeterred by what the coronavirus has thrown at them, the choirs and their members have taken themselves online, holding daily evening get-togethers to sing.

All For One has choirs in Beverley, Cleethorpes and Grimsby, Driffield, Hull, Sheffield, and Market Weighton.

The singers, numbering over 300 people across the family of choirs, are an active and supportive community that love each other’s company as much as they love to sing.

They were not going to be beaten by the current coronavirus crisis. Instead, they’ve embraced the opportunities that digital technology provides, and have been meeting virtually online for daily evening singing together.

Ellen Atkinson said: “Funnily enough I joined AFO’s Hull Choir in 2013 because I was looking for a way to manage my stress from working as an ICU ventilator nurse! The NHS choir was formed soon after, but the AFO is still my go to choir. Having retired from nursing now and being in the present situation of social-distancing, this is a fantastic idea to boost moral, before I possibly get called back to work and in these days of gloom it is emotional but fun.”

Linda Hedley is a member of the Beverley All For One Choir, she said: “The main reason I joined the choir was to come together with others to sing. This shared experience is joyful and fun. As our usual rehearsals and planned performances are not possible at the moment, the online choir is the next best thing- singing together and keeping in touch with each other.”

Lisa Goldthorpe is a member of the Hull All For One choir, she said: “My AFO family are so very important to me, Wednesday evening is always my favourite night of the week. To be able to go online with everyone, being able to see everyone safe and well, to sing, to raise the rooftops together, it just lifts the soul, which is very much needed at the moment, it leaves you feeling so uplifted, on a high even. And of course, it also means we all still get our little dose of crazy off Helen.”

Yvonne Kirman has been singing in the Hull AFO choir for 9 years, she said: “As a 77 year old who must self isolate I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have our leaders online. We are a large group who have become such great friends and of course we can chat online etc but giving us songs to learn and come together with our pals is so so moral boosting at this unnerving time.”

“In these uncertain time I think it is very important to try and carry on as normal. The choir is an important part of my life, I have been going for 9 years now and love my weekly session, meeting up with friends. By singing together on line you still feel connected. The show must go on as they say,” said Vera Rice, AFO Beverley choir member.

Sam Walton, from the Hull AFO choir, said:  I’ve been a member for over 5 years and have felt that the choir has become my extended family! I’ve been ill for a little while with chest infections, whilst under current treatment including steroids to control my asthma I’ve been told to self-isolate whilst my immune system is weakened further, this started on Friday so having the ability to see my choir family – even if my voice isn’t up to scratch at the moment – is completely priceless to me!”

Rosie said: “I am new to the Beverley AFO choir, and have thoroughly enjoyed it since I started. I joined the choir to support my mental health, as I often find socialising and making friends quite difficult. When we had to stop rehearsals I was really worried that I would not feel confident in going back after some time off. Having the sessions online is going to make such a difference to me, as I will be able to maintain my social interactions, and continue to stay well by having fun and singing with the choir.”

Helen Sargent said: “When we heard that we wouldn’t be meeting together as a full choir during this nasty business, many of us were really upset, our choir evenings bring so much joy and happiness. However, it’s been great to be able to sing together via the streams, there really is no better medicine.”

Stories like this, of groups beating such challenging circumstances, really make your heart sing too.


[Jerome Whittingham – editor HULL IS THIS]