Carol singers are a familiar sight and sound at this time of year, but the background of one Leeds choir that will be hitting the high notes over the next month or so marks them out as a particularly special group worth listening to.
Giving Voice, which was set up by NHS speech and language therapist Wendy Neill, is made of people from across the city who are struggling with speech or swallowing disorders following a stroke or other impediment.
The choir, comprising about 15 men and women, serves as an aid to their gradual recovery.
One of the singers is Morley teacher Carmel Philipsz, who is recovering from the stroke she suffered 12 months ago.
Carmel said: “Since having the stroke I was accessing rehabilitation services but knew this would come to an end at some point in the future. The choir seemed a great way to make this transition.
“I find my confidence soars after I have attended. Following the stroke I found myself living a sheltered existence going out briefly when accompanied.
“Attending the choir has helped regain my independence. Post-stroke fatigue is also a difficulty which I found hard to manage.”
Carmel was found at home by her teenage son Dominic just before Christmas last year, and he acted quickly to ensure his mother was given medical attention.
“He had realised she was suffering a stroke after recognising the symptoms he’d seen from a TV campaign.
Her rehabilitation continues and she took another big step recently by making a phased to return to the school in Batley she works at.
The musical group was set up in June and rehearses every Tuesday evening. Explaining how the group has helped her, Carmel said: “Although I can feel tired afterwards I am energised through singing. By learning lyrics and recalling those, it is helping to improve my memory, which was slightly affected after the stroke.
“I have never been part of a choir but I was encouraged to join as I would be with people who have faced similar difficulties to myself.
“I am really glad that I did and I would encourage anyone, no matter what their neurological condition, to come along as it is good fun.”
The group performed publicly for the first time at the Forget Me Knot Festival, which raises money for Alzheimer’s charity, in Leeds in October and have sung in Leeds’ Trinity Shopping Centre.
Members provided background music at the centre on Tuesday before returning to their base in Trinity Church next door where they finished the concert.
For further information about the choir, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 220 8528.