Singing is the new yoga.
That is according to the members of an all-female vocal harmony group based in Kirkcaldy which covers popular music through the decades.
The Songburds choir, which rehearses every week in Templehall Community Centre and performed at the Merchants Quarter Summer Festival last weekend, has several aims.
These include: Improving its members mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being through singing; increasing people’s confidence and self-esteem through singing as a group, being a social opportunity, providing opportunities for members to develop their singing voice with a qualified singing teacher and creating an environment that is supportive, open and accepting of all levels of singing ability.
Lesley Winton, who runs the group along with Julia Davidson and Claire Simpson, said they liken singing to practicing yoga as they have similar benefits.
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She said: “These include relaxing your mind and body through specific breathing exercises, making you happier and singing can even help with pain, and getting a better night’s sleep.
“There are also many other benefits from singing as part of a choir, for instance, it creates a strong sense of community and social inclusion, it boosts confidence, improves breathing and improves mental health and well being.”
When the group first formed in 2014 it only had a handful of participants. But over the years, it has proved to be a big hit locally with the current membership now standing at 26!
Lesley said: “When we began we only had six members. Myself and a few others were involved in a rock choir called Harmony Rocks. The musical director at that time was the amazing Claire Thomas from Edinburgh.
“When Claire left the group and we felt it was going in a different direction, we approached Claire to set up a choir ourselves.
“As she was a tutor at Fife College it was convenient for us to hire a room there for rehearsing. We soon realised the cost in running a choir and so the need for more members made us reach out via social media and word of mouth to friends, family and those who loved to sing.
“The main aim of the choir, whose members’ ages range from 20 to 60s, has always been about having fun while singing, not taking ourselves too seriously and helping women to gain confidence when performing.”
She continued: “But The Songburds is much more than a choir – it’s a support group, a place to relax, unwind and be with like-minded women. It is important for us to make everyone who joins feel welcome.”
Lesley said Claire was with the group for about a year and a half before moving on to pursue other musical opportunities.
She said having a good music director is key to a successful choir, although finding a music director who could cope with The Songburds was another matter!
Lesley said: “As we are known for our over-chattiness at rehearsals we needed someone who could control us but. at the same time, keep the rehearsals fresh and fun.
“We were extremely delighted when Catherine Baker joined us in September 2016 as our music director. Catherine has a BA in music and over 25 years’ of experience.”
With Catherine at the helm, Lesley said they have performed at various events including: Fife Festival of Music, local galas, charity events and have supported Dysart Brass Band with their Christmas concert over the last couple of years.
Lesley said: “Due to family and additional work commitments at the beginning of this year we found ourselves looking for a new director.
“After numerous interviews we were delighted for Aaron Malcolm to join the Burds, an enthusiastic and very talented young man from Kinghorn. He has been a pleasure to work with over the last few months and we wish him all the best in his musical career as he heads off to Aberdeen University.
“Catherine Baker will be returning to the Songburds in September. When we heard she had missed us and was reorganising her work load to fit us back in to her hectic schedule we were extremely happy to have her back as we have missed her too.”
Lesley continued: “The Songburds meet each Thursday from 7-9pm at Templehall Community Centre. We hold our meetings in line with the school terms due to many members having families.
“We are particularly lucky in that our voices are equally spread through sopranos, altos and tenors, which is vital as most of the songs we sing are in three-part harmonies.”
Some of the members told The Press why being part of The Songburds means a lot to them.
Fiona Kinnell said: “Initially I joined the choir to do something which was out of my comfort zone.
“We learn a range of elements from musical scores, vocal harmonies to understanding the construction of a song.
“There is great camaraderie, friendship and support from the girls. It’s great having a set point in the week when we meet.
“It has been a triumph working with our musical director towards charity concerts, galas and singing at care homes. Through this we have been able to give something back to the wider community.
“That has been both rewarding and very special.”
Deborah Johnston added: “It’s so uplifting being part of something alongside these amazing, inspirational women – and I get to be one of them!”
Gwyneth Robertson said she couldn’t wait to be part of The Songburds: “I have always loved singing and when I found out there was a local singing group I couldn’t wait to join. “Not only did it give me the chance to sing songs but it also gave me more than that – new friends, the chance to entertain people locally, a feeling of achievement and the ability to experiment with songs.
“Everyone leaves the class singing, you just can’t help it, that’s how the Songburds makes you feel – it is a happy, uplifting experience from start to finish.”
Lesley added: “There has been a lot of laughter and sometimes tears. We are amazed at how music can evoke so many emotions and memories.”
The Songburds are open for any female to join, no singing experience is necessary.
The group is holding a free taster night on August 29 at Templehall Comunnity Centre from 7pm.
For more information contact The Songburds via the group’s Facebook page.