Hebridean Harmony will hold two come-and-try sessions on Tuesday 6th August and Wednesday 7th August at the new Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative Centre on Cromwell Street, Stornoway.
Hebridean Harmony is a choir group aimed at people who have had an experience with cancer and is inspired by Welsh charity Tenovus and its Sing with Us campaign.
The focus of Hebridean Harmony is to work together to produce a harmonious sound, helping each other with the effects of cancer treatment or the stress of caring for or losing a loved one.
Research carried out by Tenovus has shown that after one hour of communal singing, people feel less anxious, depressed, isolated, confused, angry and sad. They feel happy, relaxed and energised; and this has been confirmed by studying hormone levels. Research has also shown that singing has a positive effect on the immune system and reduces inflammation of the throat and lungs.
The Hebridean Harmony sessions are designed to be fun with the focus placed on the health benefits of choir participation rather than singing ability.
The driving force behind this new initiative has been Christine Rushworth, originally of Liverpool who now resides in South Lochs. Christine is herself a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with bowel cancer at Western Isles Hospital two years ago. Following her treatment at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, Christine was staying in Wales when she heard of a Tenovus Choir meeting in the nearby town of Llanidloes.
Christine said, “There were over 100 people gathered together all united by a shared experience with cancer – it was hugely uplifting and inspiring. The singing really provided a distraction from what was a very difficult time.”
Christine says the Tenovus template is perfectly suited to the Western Isles. “In the Western Isles there is a huge musical tradition, singing has always played an important role in the lives of people here. The strong sense of community that people here hold is another important aspect of island life. The idea of looking out for one another is hugely important in the development of such a singing group.”
“So many people across the islands are touched by cancer and we want to encourage people of every age to attend. From school children to grandparents everyone is welcome.”
The choir will be led by Carole Miller who is an experienced musical director who has led choirs to National Mod success in the past. Carole is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Sheffield University and The University of Strathclyde.
Carole said, “What we're hoping is that people come along and enjoy themselves and for a short time forget about everything that's going on in their lives. It doesn't matter if you think you can't sing. In Zimbabwe, they have a saying, if you can walk you can dance and if you can talk you can sing, I strongly believe in that!”
The project has been heavily supported by WICCI who say, “The whole point of the new centre is to try new things, so this is us making a start with a relaxed project that offers stress release, a chat and a cup of tea, and the chance to be part of something. We plan to offer different things for different people.”
The sessions will initially be aimed at those who have had an experience with cancer. However, discussions have been held with local charities with a view to expanding this to incorporate other health conditions.