Kendal Group are Singing for the Soul

on Sunday, 04 January 2015.

A group of local Kendal residents affected by cancer have set up a weekly singing group to support their recovery.

The CancerCare Singing Group was first set up at the end of last summer by a group of breast cancer survivors who saw singing as a powerful recovery tool as well as a great way to have fun and meet new people.


The group with David Burbidge (pictured far right)

With no prior singing or choir experience necessary, the group are encouraging new members to join them for their Wednesday evening sessions at the Kendal Lakes Centre in Blackhall Road, led by natural voice teacher David Burbidge.

Staveley mum of two and singing group member Sarah Abbott says;

“I attended a Recovery Programme a couple of years ago when I was going through treatment for breast cancer. We met for 12 weeks and during that time we took part in loads of activities together including Zumba, Pilates, nutrition sessions and singing classes – something we all particularly enjoyed.  After the programme ended, some of the group wanted to keep in touch and also continue our singing because it made us feel good, so in the end we decided to set up our own weekly group.”

“We approached CancerCare who agreed to support us and then auditioned for a group tutor. It was really important to us that we found someone who would make singing fun because none of us were particularly good singers but we enjoyed it all the same!”

The group eventually recruited well-known natural voice teacher David Burbidge who is a member of The National Voice Practionners – a network of people who believe that singing is everyone’s birth-right, regardless of musical experience or ability. David says;

“Our ethos is to make singing accessible for everyone. There is no sheet music, and we learn all the songs by ear - from short and easy rounds to more challenging songs with 2 or 3 different harmony parts.”

"We sing mainly folk songs from the UK and around the world, partly because they are such fun to sing, but also because they are easy to learn. The purpose of the group is not for us to create an immaculate performance, but to enjoy singing together in a group. We sing in a circle so that everyone has the chance to hear the other singers and enjoy the harmony we make together.”

"There is a great sense of camaraderie in this group. I lead a number of different community choirs and harmony singing workshops, but this one is special because the members have such an incredible zest for life.”

Singing is indeed a powerful tool for health and research at the University of Canterbury proves what all singers already know - that singing in a group can have a huge impact on physical and emotional wellbeing. CancerCare’s group members have already benefited from singing’s positive effects since joining. David explains;

“One of our members had ovarian cancer and was finding it a struggle to cope with everything on her own. She later told me that after attending the group she came away ‘feeling loved’ which is just wonderful!”

“Singing improves mood, makes us feel more relaxed, increases positive emotions, gives hope and a sense of purpose, and above all brings people together to share a rich and fulfilling experience together.”

"And as my friend the folk singer Sandra Kerr, who leads a community choir in Northumberland, says: "Singing releases endorphins in the same way as chocolate and sex does - only it's less messy!”

Fellow member Alix Jagger, aged 45 from Grange-over-Sands was also involved in setting up the group and says;

“The great thing about singing is that absolutely anyone can join in! Some of our group members are still going through cancer treatment, some have recovered, others live or care for someone with the illness and some have experienced bereavement. But first and foremost we’re here because we like singing! We don’t just sit around and talk about having cancer - but we can, if we want.”

“Being with others who have been through the experience is very empowering. You don’t need to go into details or explain because they just know. You can definitely feel energy in the room when we sing together!”

Group member’s ages range from 18 to 75 and membership is open to anyone affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions – including family members and friends.

Alix’s partner Sarah also attends the group and says– “I came because I wanted to learn to sing more confidently – and now I can. David is great – he claims to get everyone singing and it’s true! It doesn’t matter if you’re tone deaf with no singing experience whatsoever – as long as you enjoy yourself that’s all that matters!”

“I really struggled when Alix was first diagnosed with cancer. It goes to show you just don’t know what’s around the corner. But we’re living in the moment and happy to be here and singing. It really makes you feel alive!”

Sarah adds– “Everyone becomes a friend. It’s such a supportive place to come to and we always have such a laugh.  One of the songs we sing contain the lyrics ‘we’re going to keep on moving forward’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Seizing the day! Singing is a great release and every week I leave with a big smile on my face.”

The CancerCare Singing Group takes place every Wednesday from 5.30pm-7pm at the Lakes Centre on Blackhall Road. The group is free to join with a suggested donation of £2 per week. No booking is necessary so just turn up on the night.