Vocalising your way to better health

Happy days: 'Marsha Kelly and Debbie Rooney
Happy days: 'Marsha Kelly and Debbie Rooney
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“Singing is better for you than chocolate. Same endorphin rush, no calories.”

Now there’s a slogan for a T-shirt. The description is Val Regan’s. She’s part of Sing for A Change, a not-for-profit group formed to get novices singing.

This is no X-Factor talent hunt, though; sessions are simply about discovering the feel-good factor singing gives.

“Our workshops are fun. They give novices the chance to sing the hearts out without being judged at all,” says Sheffielder Val.

She and Andrea Small decided to tap into the popularity for choral singing created in the wake of programmes like Military Wives.

The sessions at the City Hall are specifically designed for workers on a lunchbreak.

“We all struggle to take a break from our bus“There are a lot of singing groups and choirs in the city already but not everyone can find time for a regular evening group, so we had the idea of setting up something that people could drop into over a lunchbreak,” says Val.

There are no plans for the monthly sing-song to turn out a performing choir.

“It’s purely about getting people back in touch with the joy of singing,” says Andrea. “Humans seem made to sing. In all sorts of social settings, whether it’s at a birthday party or a football match, people join voices. There is even evidence that man sang before he spoke,” she adds.

The women are saddened by those of us who are too self-conscious to raise our voices in song, but heartened by the fact that, shy as many a novice is, there is also the desire to reconnect with a form of expression first experienced in childhood.

Andrea reassures: “Heart Research UK promotes singing for healthy hearts and The Sidney de Haan Research Centre at Canterbury University has shown that singing boosts the immune system.”

Says Val: “Also it makes you feel good and is a great way to socialise. TV programmes like Military Wives have proved it and are turning people on in their droves.

“In fact we reckon singing is the new black. Though we’re much better than Gareth Malone,” grins Val. “He’s the Johnny come lately. We’ve been doing it for a lot longer - and we’ve never made anyone cry.”

The next Lunchtime Singing session is on October 4, 1-1.40pm. Places are £6. To book call the City Hall on 0114 2789789.

Delighted to be in the chorus line

Friends Debbie Rooney and Marsha Kelly have just finished hitting the high notes and are basking in the after-glow.

“Singing in the middle of the day has been really invigorating,” proclaims Debbie, 43. “It sets you on a bit of a high for the rest of the day. She a confident chanteuse, having joined amateur dramatics societies some 20 years ago.

When she heard about the new classes, she was so determined to attend she bought two tickets and then set about finding a friend willing to be “dragged along.”

Kelly, 53, of Rotherham, was happy to oblige. She too has years of experience, having been a member of Rotherham Teachers’ Operatic Society and Wickersley Musical Theatre. But, she says, she doesn’t have as good a voice as Debbie.

“I’m a chorus singer; I know my limitations,” she grins.

“What was great about the City Hall class was no one was singled out. It meant the less confident ones could relax and get on with joining in.

“The teaching was really good - they made it fun. In fact by the end of the clapping game, we were so unco-ordinated we were crying with laughter. We’ll definitely be back next month.”