Bringing people to enjoy singing together as a choir community
Voice of Hope Wellbeing Gospel Choir began as a community gospel workshop choir based in the heart of Bristol as part of a reconciliation project in 2010-11 at St Stephens Church in Bristol’s city centre. The ultimate aim of the project was to bring together the communities in the city around themes of faith and the creative arts. In 2014 Voice of Hope started rehearsing in the old Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) Chapel, and so began an association with the city based hospital.
During 2017 Voice of Hope Wellbeing Gospel Choir had been meeting fortnightly on a Friday evening in the reception area of the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre (the BHOC). Outpatients, visitors and hospital staff have had easy access to listen to the choir or even join in.
However, the choir is now moving its base – still within the Bristol Royal Infirmary – to the Sanctuary on Level 4 of the King Edward Building on Upper Maudlin Street. Rehearsal sessions provide a place of connection where those affected by illnesses such as cancer, heart disease or respiratory problems can find an expression through the music of the choir.
Connecting people to the health and wellbeing benefits of singing
Previous research has found that singing has a range of health benefits for example, increasing oxygen levels in the blood and triggering the release of hormones such as oxytocin – thought to help lower stress levels and blood pressure. Recent research has shown that singing can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and raise levels of cytokines – proteins linked to immunity.
Voice of Hope Wellbeing Gospel Choir aims to help those affected by serious illnesses – including patients, carers, family members and hospital staff – as well as those who are looking for a place to meet new people and experience the joy of the shared endeavour. Though the focus is on wellbeing, the choir also receives people from the wider community who enjoy singing and would like to experience something refreshing and uplifting.
Voice of Hope welcomes people of all faiths or none and those who have historically been a part of this project have attested that they experience a deep connection with the words and music of the gospel songs taught in the sessions.