Sing your HEART out with indie women’s choirs
Mainstream TV show Glee helped to change the general public perception of choirs, with its introduction of a note of diversity to music and the people who sing it. The well-documented rise of indie choirs across the UK means there’s now a far broader range of ‘have a go’ communities out there for you to join, whatever your interests and needs.
In the same way that the UK Women’s Institute evolved from its original purpose of educating rural women and encouraging them to grow food for a war-torn nation, women’s choirs are now light years from their formal traditionalist classical/religious roots. Women’s barbershop quartets? Check. Jaunty covers of Nick Cave and Regina Spektor? Check. Sounds from around the world? Check. Inclusive approach to gender and orientation? Check.
Are there benefits to communal singing? A 2013 study by Oxford Brookes psychologist Nick Stewart found that choir singers considered themselves to feel more mental well-being than in-the-shower singers or team sport players. If you’re wondering if you could really get out there and sing in a group, however friendly it might be, think confidence-building. Think safe, meaningful connection with other people. Think how often self-empowerment is associated with verbal cues like speaking your mind, having your say, having your voice heard, venting, letting it out all, not keeping it inside… and then think how often society either implicitly or actually tells us to be seen and not heard, say it not spray it, hold our tongue, if we can’t say anything nice then we shouldn’t say anything at all…
Now think how good it might be to simply SING.
Where can you find a choir that works for you? If you’re a UK student, check with your student union. Search online for e.g. ‘indie choirs’, ‘women’s choirs’ and ‘feminist choirs’ along with your location to see what comes up. Rock Choir has more than 16,000 members so you’re likely to find a rock choir in your area. Similarly, Glee Club UK is getting bigger by the day. Read on to find a few taster indie, feminist and women’s choirs in the UK and Ireland, including what is said to be the first transgender choir in Europe. Then again, if you can’t find what you need but you’re musically-minded and a member of an existing social network, ask around your friendship and community groups. Maybe you can get enough numbers together to start your own local choir. One that’s right for you.
Indie women’s choirs in the UK and Ireland
We are Lips
We are Lips is an all-women pop choir based in Islington, London. They cover everything from pop, rock and disco through to dubstep, and have around 70 members. Properly inclusive, this is a choir for people who self-identify as female, trans*, and gender non-conforming. Like the sound of them? Get in touch to be put on the waiting list.
LIPS perform ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush:
My Heart Sings
My Heart Sings, organised by Shilpa Shah, is a London-based choir. Shilpa says:
“I’ve seen how singing can help create positive social change – relationships are strengthened and there is a sense of personal growth and wellbeing which can spill into every-day life and work. I started My Heart Sings to bring women together to create more of that magic for ourselves.”
This choir is all about building confidence and connection through feel-good singing sessions, and they cover songs from around the world… protest songs… all sorts, really.
Out Aloud is a Sheffield-based gay choir and that name is to die for. It enables lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans* people in Sheffield to enjoy a big shared sing. There are no auditions and it’s got around 50 members – you just need to be aged 16+ and identify as LGBTQIA.
For more LGBT choirs all over the UK, check out this fab list from Legato Choirs.
Transgender Music Matters Choir
This one is based in Dublin, Ireland, not the UK. However, the Music Matters Transgender Choir is believed to be the first trans choir in Europe. It’s inclusive of people that identify as transgender or gender fluid, regardless of musical ability or experience, and it is believed to be the first of its kind in Europe. It welcomes choir members who wish to explore ideas of gender and identity, without any labels. It also welcomes friends, families and supporters of the transgender community who want to sing with those identifying as transgender or gender fluid. Through this choir, Music Matters aims to increase awareness and training among other musical professionals, societies and organisations. Sing! Sing your heart out!
SHE Choir in King’s Cross, London, is free to join with zilch auditioning required. Get ready to sing original arrangements of absolutely everything, from Us (Regina Spektor) to Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus) and Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)!
Finally, a few things you’ll learn from singing in a choir…
- It’s totally okay to go a little weird in warm-up. Puffing your cheeks, panting and making aeroplane noises with your mouth is, in fact, maybe more than okay. It’s maybe the best.
- If you’re feeling shy, sing next to one of the loud ones!
- Sometimes you will mumble the bits you kinda forgot. Sometimes you will go SO LOUD on the bits you know. Yes, you will get away with it. It’s a tried and tested technique…
- It’s going to all sound so, so much better than you ever imagined.
Main photo: Alternative women’s choir GAGGLE