Street choir finds its voice

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Music - 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 70-plus 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, con­fi­dence 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?’,” 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 suf­fered 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.

“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.”

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

The Spirit of the Streets Choir

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