Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Lifestyle - Sara Fitz­patrick

WHEN Bernard Car­ney launched Spirit of the Streets Choir in 2007, his ob­jec­tive was sim­ply to spread the joy of singing.

He had no idea his lit­tle group for the dis­ad­van­taged and so­cially iso­lated would grow to 70plus mem­bers and touch so many lives.

“I didn’t have the ob­jec­tive to gather peo­ple with prob­lems and then see if we could fix them,” he said.

“Help­ing oth­ers was just one of the side ef­fects – we all en­joy our­selves with the mu­sic and as a re­sult, peo­ple gain skills, confi- dence and es­teem.”

Car­ney, who has sung pro­fes­sion­ally for 40 years, gath­ered singers af­ter ap­proach­ing a mem­ber of in­de­pen­dent mag­a­zine The Big Is­sue, sold on the streets by home­less, marginalised peo­ple.

“I asked them, ‘Do you think your ven­dors would like to get to­gether and have a bit of a sing?’

“I know that the power of mu­sic is just fan­tas­tic and it gets peo­ple into a team to do some­thing to­gether that is cre­ative,” he said.

“From there, it broad­ened out to peo­ple who didn’t sell the mag­a­zine but just heard about it and we then opened it up to in­clude any­body who felt so­cially iso­lated.”

Car­ney said self-as­sur­ance was the key ben­e­fit for choir mem­bers, many of whom suf­fer men­tal ill­ness and lone­li­ness.

“We’ve got men and women now who stand up in front of a room full of busi­ness peo­ple and tell them a lit­tle bit about their lives,” he said.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to see that shift hap­pen – peo­ple who wouldn’t say boo to a goose in the re­hearsals sud­denly ask, ‘Can I in­tro­duce that song?’

“We sing the Trav­el­ling Wil­burys hit End of the Line and one woman re­cently in­tro­duced it, then men­tioned that two or three years ago she thought her life had come to the end of the line.

“She added, ‘And then I found this choir and I’ve got th­ese new friends and we do all th­ese things and life is so much nicer.’

“We all stood there with our jaws gap­ing be­cause we didn’t know any­thing about her.”

Rais­ing money for its two-yearly trip to Duns­bor­ough Song Fest, the choir will per­form a con­cert with the Spooky Men of the West Choir, with ticket sales cov­er­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, bus hire and meals.

“It will be a very in­spi­ra­tional, mov­ing af­ter­noon,” Car­ney said.

“It’s emo­tional to see peo­ple with a lot of prob­lems over­com­ing it all and hav­ing a great deal of fun.”

The Spirit of the Street Choir.

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