Sheffield singer defies disability to hit the right notes

Maya Moudnani  for Changing Faces feature.
Maya Moudnani for Changing Faces feature.
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Every rehearsal night poses a challenge for singing group member Maya Moudnani.

Despite being profoundly deaf, partially sighted and struggling with her mobility, Maya, from Nether Edge, sings lead in the Sheffield Harmony group.

The mother-of-one, who also has facial disfigurement, plucked up the courage to join the barbershop-style chorus three years ago, and almost four decades after she was badly injured in a road crash in France.

Maya, who used to live in France, was en route to enrol at university in Montpellier when she stepped out into the road to save a toddler who had escaped from his pushchair.

She scooped up the child, but was hit by a lorry, sustaining severe head trauma.

The boy was unhurt, but 55-year-old Maya has endured years of reconstructive surgery and constant pain resulting from the brain injury.

It took her two years to learn to walk and talk again, and she has also needed countless hospital attendances, both in France and then in the UK, where she moved in the late 1980s to work initially as a language teacher then as a careers advisor.

Now she plays a full and active role in Sheffield Harmony, and will compete for the first time with the chorus in a barbershop contest in Nottingham next month.

The Sweet Adelines Region 31 Convention will take place from May 8 to 10, when Sheffield Harmony will sing against more than 20 other choruses from across the UK and the Netherlands.

“I’m excited about sharing the experience of competitive singing but primarily this, for me, is about personal challenge,” said Maya.

“I always like to raise the bar for myself, push myself and face my fears directly. I can’t hear, my sight is poor and my mobility is poor. It would be too easy to stay at home and not be part of the living world.”

The keen singer takes clues and cues from the body language of other chorus members, and uses a computer programme which gives visual clues to help her attain perfect pitch. Her son Zack, 20, is another source of support.

“My deafness doesn’t mean I can’t hear as such, I just hear differently,” she added.

Moroccan-born Maya works as an advocate for Changing Faces, a charity which helps people with facial and body disfigurement to approach the world with confidence. This year Sheffield Harmony has chosen the good cause as its charity for 2015, and has already donated nearly £1,000 so far.