Volunteering for High Notes Choir
Andrew, Elaine and Lesley volunteer for High Notes Choir. We spoke to them about what makes it such a rewarding place to volunteer.
Can you tell us a bit about High Notes?
"High Notes is a choir for adults with learning disabilities. It was started in 2008 by LinkAble who are a Woking based charity that provide sports, social and recreational activities for children and adults with learning disabilities. There are now 30 adults in the choir and we have a team of six volunteers who help out. We rehearse every Tuesday evening at High Cross Church in Camberley and also regularly perform in concerts with other local musical groups."
What's your role as volunteers?
"Our main role as volunteers is to encourage and support members of the choir. We join in just like everyone else and are on hand to help people find their words or to reassure them if something goes wrong. Everyone in the choir has different needs but over time we've got to know each person's strengths and what they are less comfortable with so we can tailor how we support them. The choir members have got to know us too and they will often chat to us about what's going on in their life."
What do you find most rewarding about volunteering for High Notes?
"The members of the choir really enjoy it and that's why we enjoy it too. Life can be quite challenging for some people in the choir but High Notes is a safe place for them to come to where they can have fun and see friends. It's also really rewarding to see their progression. Often when someone first joins High Notes they can hardly do a thing but after a short time they're fully involved and their parents and carers are always surprised at how much they've achieved.
There's a real sense of family here too. For example, when it's someone's birthday we'll always have cake and there's also one person who always arrives late because they struggle with timekeeping so everyone gives them a huge cheer when they arrive. As volunteers, sometimes after a long day at work the last thing you want to do is come out again during the evening but once you arrive at High Notes you forget all about this as the session are so much fun and you always leave here on a high."
What do you need to be a volunteer with High Notes?
"The most important thing is a sense of humour. Sometimes quite bizarre things happen but we all just laugh together. You also need to be patient and to care about the people in the choir, recognising that they all have different needs. You don't necessarily need to be a highly skilled musician or an amazing singer but it's good if volunteers are passionate about music and enjoy singing.
On a more practical note, it's important that anyone who volunteers can be here every week as routine is really important for lots of people in the choir so they find it difficult when people aren't here. The session is only an hour and volunteers tend to be here 15 minutes before and after the session to help with setting up and tidying away. Once a term there's normally a concert so there are sometimes extra rehearsals for this as well."
What's been your highlight of volunteering for High Notes?
"Performing at the Albert Hall was amazing. In May 2015, we performed as part of The Freedom Games which had been written to celebrate the 800 th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta in Surrey. This was an incredible experience, although also slightly scary to be performing at the Albert Hall!
Last term we also prepared for and sat the Associated Board Royal School of Music Initial Choral Exam, grades 1 - 3. In preparation for the exam we had to learn some challenging new pieces of music for this but everyone in the choir worked their socks off to make sure they knew all their words. The examiner gave us some great feedback and High Notes are now the first learning disabled choir in the country to have passed a grade. It's an amazing achievement for everyone in High Notes and something they can be really proud of."
To find out more about High Notes, please visit the LinkAble website.
LinkAble are in the process of setting up new choirs for adults with learning disabilities in different parts of Surrey. If you'd be interested in volunteering to support these choirs please contact Alison Wrigley BEM for further information (firstname.lastname@example.org or 07814430442)