Final preparations

14 December 2018

By Amy Bradley

Amy at her graduation

With only a few days left now until the Christmas Musical Extravaganza at Arley Hall on the 18 December, things are even busier than before (and that’s saying something!). 

Christmas Choir

Since the very start, my aspiration has been to make the Christmas concert more than just a fundraising concert; to make it about inclusivity, community and really making a difference. As I previously mentioned, I felt it imperative that the concert should be about the people of Leonard Cheshire, not just for them.

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

In my last blog, I explained that I know just how isolating, difficult and lonely rehabilitation from serious illness or injury can be. I also know how difficult it is to embrace ‘a new normal’, and accept where you are whilst also needing to remain positive and determined so that you can continue to improve.

And I know how little things can make such a huge difference to anyone going on such a journey. 

So how’s the Christmas Choir been going?

In short, the choir is simply wonderful, heartwarming and a true representation of community. Moreover, it’s showcasing the three core value of our great organisation — proud, positive and pioneering.

‘Bringing the outside in’ to Oakwood Acquired Brain Injury Service

Every week when my marvellous choir director and volunteer, Isla Atay, and I turn up at Oakwood Acquired Brain Injury Service, I have people waiting to help get set up, move chairs, prepare drinks. One choir member and Can Do steering committee bakes cakes to share. 

I think that’s what I love most about this project; how it’s bringing together so many people from so many different walks of life, many of whom have who’ve never sung before, let alone in a choir.

Whether that’s the friends and family of Oakwood residents, members of Gatley U3A choir or people from the local community who may not have previously realised what Leonard Cheshire was all about.

A true community

A gentleman who now lives at home, but attends some day sessions at Oakwood has got his wife involved and members of his church community.

Another member brought her mum along after attending the first time: her Mum had just moved to the area and thought it would be a great way to meet others in our community.

Christmas Choir practice

As soon as our members from Gatley U3A and the wider community walk through the door, everyone catches up on their past week, their struggles and successes.

During the course of our rehearsals, one of Oakwood’s incredible residents who is in his early thirties has climbed two flights of stairs for the first time since he had a brain haemorrhage over two and a half years ago. 

There’s such a lovely community spirit — we’re all in this together! 

Exciting outcomes

It’s been so lovely to see this project evolve and be so very positive. One of our Can Doers has discovered a new-found passion for singing and is searching for a choir to join in the New Year so he can carry on enjoying the music and togetherness.

Amy playing the keyboard

A gentleman who will be leaving Oakwood soon has declared that the choir is ‘a great boost to morale’ and that ‘it is nice to give something back’. He’s said that it’s something he can look forward to every week and it’s been a real break from the norm.

Sharing these stories is exactly what this has all been for!

Singing together

In terms of our actual singing we’re progressing really well. We’re singing Deck the Halls, a jazzy version of Jingle Bells and Bette Milder’s well known piece ‘The Rose’ which the choir are loving because the harmonies are exquisite. Learning three songs in harmony in just seven weeks is no mean feat!

A number of members turned up at our latest rehearsal declaring how ‘that piece we did last week was a real earworm! I’ve been singing it ever since last Monday!’ or how they’ve been practicing between rehearsals, such has been their enthusiasm. 

We’ve got one final rehearsal on Monday where we’re going to put the finishing flourishes on the pieces and then that’s it! 

It’s been such a lovely experience so far and I can’t wait for the performance on Tuesday! I’m hoping that everyone’s hard work, dedication and commitment pays off and it is a truly fabulous evening. 

So many thanks

This certainly isn’t a project that can be undertaken by a one-man band! 

I must extend my personal thanks to my wonderful choir director and volunteer, Isla Atay from The University of Manchester, my manager Jen Sweeney for all the photography, videoing and support, Oakwood Brain Injury Service for being so welcoming and accommodating, and, of course, my many wonderful choristers who have shown such commitment and enthusiasm. 

Many thanks also to Corkills Motor Care, Northwich, for your generous sponsorship the Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir and for enabling us to be able to run this wonderful project which, I know, has achieved so much.

Amy is a 2018 Change 100 intern.

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