Mind and Soul Community Choir
Meeting every Wednesday evening at 6-7pm at the Maudsley Hospital on Denmark Hill, The Mind and Soul Community Choir is open to all. Choir members are service users from South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, staff, family members, carers, friends, as well as people from the local SE5 area. Beginning in 2006 as a small project funded by the Maudsley Charity, the choir was formed to promote mental wellbeing through singing. The choir is still going strong in 2020.
I met up with musical director Nicola Wydenbach and choir member Serena Wallace to learn more about the choir. Running for 40 weeks of the year, they explain that there is very much a “drop-in mentality” - you don’t have to go every week. “What I love about the choir”, explains Serena, “is that every week there’s going to be someone different. There’s a feel of just joining in – it’s relaxed, and there’s no pressure”. You don’t even have to be a good singer, they tell me, as long as you have a passion for singing.
Nicola Wydenbach, Musical Director of the Mind and Soul Choir
The choir have performed various concerts over the past year or so, including at the Southbank Centre, the Union Chapel in Islington, and for a project called Camberwell Groove at Theatre Peckham. Sometimes the choir have pieces written for them to sing at certain events. Serena explains, “We come from a standpoint of singing things that are positive, things that uplift, thinks that speak purity and truth. That’s what we celebrate. It could be gospel, old folk songs, or Oasis!”. The choir have also performed for patients on the wards at the Maudsley.
The Mind and Soul Choir performing at the Southbank Centre
Serena has been coming to the choir on-and-off since 2014. She was a patient on a ward and an Occupational Therapist encouraged her to join the choir. “I started coming and I loved it – I loved singing, I loved the songs, I loved learning a new skill - how to harmonise, and I loved being part of a group”. Since last August, Serena has been attending almost every week. Some days it takes a bit more effort to make it in. “It always pays off. I look back on past experience, and realise you can’t take things for granted, you have to put in effort sometimes”. The choir has enabled Serena to do other things too. “It has given me confidence, motivation and inspired me. You see your progress at the end of something and you think ‘wow!’”.
Choir member Serena Wallace
The choir has a real sense of community, and is a source of support for its members. “Sometimes you may not be the best singer, but as long as you’ve got a passion for it. Whilst we are here, we all love to sing, and are united”. Serena has made some good friends at the choir, and describes everyone as kind and genuine. Some people come with support workers, or a family member. I ask Serena what advice she would give for someone reading this who wanted to come, but was feeling a bit nervous:
“Try something new! If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. Everybody loves singing. It lifts your mood, you feel happy, and it’s in an environment where you feel safe. If you love singing, come along! Everyone loves it. We have quite a laugh. Nicola has a great sense of humour”.
The choir meets in the Maudsley Hospital canteen, from 6-7pm on Wednesdays. If you ask at reception when you arrive, they will direct you.
Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, SE5 8AZ.
If you have any questions, call 07599 501189 or email email@example.com