One Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir

25 December 2018

By Amy Bradley

Amy at her graduationSome of you may have been following my blog over the last few weeks.

From detailing my journey as a Change 100 intern to the creation of the very first Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir which performed on Tuesday 18 December at Arley Hall Chapel, Northwich.

For those who haven’t, you’re about to hear all about it!

What is the Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir?

The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir has been a first and a pioneering venture for the organisation.

Our Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir in Leonard Cheshire tshirts and santa hats

I was tasked with organising a Christmas concert for the North of England as part of my Change 100 internship

So I decided to take a novel approach and, as part of the project, form a Gareth Malone-style outfit to bring together people from across the reach of the organisation: Can Do and Change 100 participants, residents and staff of Oakwood Acquired Brain Injury Service in Stockport and new volunteers and members of the community.

Sharing joy through opportunity

Recovering myself from the acquisition of a life-changing condition, Functional Neurological Disorder, I know what it’s like when your life is turned upside down unexpectedly.

Like how hard it is to accept disability and your ‘new normal’, and how difficult it can be to keep positive, hopeful and feel part of society.

Through the Change 100 programme, Leonard Cheshire has given me hope, positivity and a focus. I wanted to share some of this joy.

My vision for the choir was simple: to ‘bring the outside in’ to residents rehabilitating after life changing brain injuries in one of Leonard Cheshire’s residential services, and to use the power of music unite Leonard Cheshire programme participants, staff members and the wider community with a common interest and goal.

The incredible impact of volunteering, inclusivity and togetherness

Expertly directed by second year Manchester University student Isla Atay, The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir has gone from strength to strength over the seven weeks of our rehearsals.

Many members had never sung before, let alone in a choir and particular mention should go to Oakwood’s Service Manager Corinne Waters who sang as part of a quartet in ‘The Rose’ having never done anything like this before!

Christmas Choir practice

A new volunteer to Leonard Cheshire, Isla has dedicated over 30 hours of her time to making this project the success it is: she’s a true champion and her outstanding contribution epitomises the life-changing impact that volunteering can make.

The community, friends and family members of choir participants, voices from Gatley U3A, and those living close to Oakwood residential service all became one with those actively involved with Leonard Cheshire.

Friendships blossomed, weekly news and successes shared, and one member even brought along her Mum as she thought it would be a nice way for her, being new to the area, to meet people.

The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir has been a leading example of community and the very best of human kind.

Performing at A Christmas Musical Extravaganza at Arley Hall

Our Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir performingOur choir performed marvellously at Arley Hall Chapel on Tuesday 18 December, navigating the logistics of the staging and positioning with expertise!

The representative from The Christmas Choir’s sponsor, Corkills Northwich was overcome with emotion at the incredible music, singing and love in the room and many, many people voiced their enjoyment of the performance and the evening as a whole. Delightfully, my inbox is still being flooded with the most wonderful messages of thanks!

So much joy, happiness and cheer has been shared over the last couple of months, and I’ve been overjoyed that choir members have regarded it as being ‘a real boost to morale’ and ‘a break from the norm’.

Most poignantly for me, one of Oakwood’s residents stated that one of his most treasured aspects was the opportunity to give something back to the organisation, and one of our Can Do participants has discovered a new passion for singing and is looking to join a choir in the New Year.

Thank you to the incredible Christmas Choir participants for your commitment, dedication and bravery to try something new and just have a go! Working with you all has been a wonderfully heart-warming experience.

Isla is keen to keep working with Leonard Cheshire, and there have been so many requests for a repeat next year… watch this space!

The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir was generously sponsored by Corkills Northwich and the VIP reception at A Christmas Musical Extravaganza at Arley Hall kindly sponsored by Purchasing Support Services.

Amy is a 2018 Change 100 intern.

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