Promise to a friend keeps choir singing
THEY call themselves the Senior Singers – it used to be the Heavenly Choir but some felt that a little off putting.
But everyone is smiling today as the choir, made up of fine voices all over 50, belt out old favourites and classic concert pieces in the warmth of Age UK Exeter's Cowick Street headquarters.
They do so under the enthusiastic leadership of Chris Ashford who shows the way because of her love of music and a promise made.
Chris said: "I was a good friend of Cynthia Keats, who was the leader and choir mistress of the Heavenly Choir for almost 20 years.
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"She passed away in April, aged 85. She was a real fighter, a battler, and the last time I saw her she made me promise that whatever happened to her I would keep the choir going – and so I have.
QWE have around about a dozen members, including a couple of men, and we are very keen to increase the numbers.
"We meet every Thursday at 2pm at Age UK Exeter in Cowick Street, and it is a very friendly and sociable group.
"Absolute beginners are welcome, although of course many members are very musically inclined.
"It is very much a social gathering too, where we sit and have a chat over a cup of tea. Sharing a common interest is just the start.
"We sing songs which tend to be popular with older people, and we sometimes visit homes for the elderly and give concerts."
Choir pianist Marion Wilson said: "You often see even those who are very quiet joining in, recognising the songs we are singing.
"It seems to be a real therapy for some people. Singing and music brings it all back for some people."
Mrs Wilson has been with the choir for eight years, playing piano at Cowick Street and electronic organ "on the road".
Her husband Clifford is one of the two male singers.
"I really enjoy it and always come along if I'm not working on the farm making cider," he said.
Similarly, Roy Trevett is no stranger to singing, having been a lifelong entertainer at over-60s clubs in the area.
"I greatly enjoy it and singing really does Raise You Up, as the old song goes," said Roy.
Olwyn Ford, who was in the first batch of Second World War evacuees to Devon from London in 1939, and never went back, said she too found singing lifted the spirit.
She said: "I think it must be in my blood.
"My mother sang with the Huddersfield Choral Society may years ago. I sang with the Budleigh Salterton Ladies' Choir for some years and my daughter, Kate, sang solo at Exeter Cathedral when she was a pupil at The Maynard School."
Joan Steed, whose father, Arthur Dyer played for Exeter Operatic said: "My father lived for music and I have to say I love it too. Music is in the blood, and while there may be no money in it, it is something I have always enjoyed."
Gladys Heggadon, another stalwart member, sang with WI and church choirs before joining up with the Senior Singers.
"I enjoy the singing, of course, but the social side it very good too. I think anyone who comes along and joins us would enjoy it. It is great fun."