This Friday we'll be celebrating the best that the North East has to offer at our Living North Awards ceremony. The night will focus on supporting those around us, which means that our musical guests – two Military Wives Choirs (MWCs) – are a perfect fit for the occasion.
The Dishforth Military Wives Choir (DMWC) and The Yorkshire Decibelles will come together to form a super group they've jokingly dubbed 'The Dishibelles' to sing well-known songs in their own, beautiful style. We spoke to Ruth Sladden, the Musical Director of both choirs, and Katy Clark, a member of the DMWC, to learn more about their experiences of singing together.
Why do you think choirs have such a powerful resonance with audiences?
Ruth: Music moves most people. While music played on instruments is often wonderful, the human voice comes directly from within us, speaking from and to our deepest feelings.
Katy: For the audience, it might be the first time they have heard a particular song sung in such a way. The layers of harmony that a choir adds gives songs a dimension that a single artist may not be able to achieve. Hearing a song sung that way can evoke an emotional response, which you might not get singing along to the radio.
Why is singing so important? What does it do for people?
Ruth: Singing has been shown to reduce stress. It can lift our spirits, make us feel happy and bring peace and joy. I know this to be true personally, as do many of my singers.
Katy: Singing does amazing things to your body and mind – there is actual scientific proof! Not to mention, of course, that you may also learn a new skill.
What is the best thing about being in a choir?
Ruth: The research I conducted as part of my MA in music found several answers from community, workplace and Military Wives choirs. It can give you friendship, a feeling of self-confidence, increased happiness, presentation skills and an increased ability to listen to each other and share feelings.
Katy: The best part is meeting the other women. They understand your life – the struggles, the hardships, the loneliness, the uncertainty. They offer friendship, cake, support, wine, advice and an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. MWCs were set up as a support network for wives and it will always remain the focus of why we’re here, but performing has become a way of raising funds to allow this to continue.
What would you say to anyone who is considering joining a choir?
Ruth: Find some local choirs and see if you can go along to listen and watch. See which choir sings music that moves you and which choir seems to be enjoying themselves. Several people I have encouraged to sing were told to keep quiet at school and haven't sung since. I haven't met anyone who can't improve! Give it a go, you've nothing to lose.
Katy: Do it! It might take some courage to go along the first time, but imagine how it could make you feel to walk out at the end with a room full of new friends!
What have you gained from the experience of joining with another choir for the Living North Awards?
Ruth: Our repertoires differ quite a lot, with the DMWC tending to sing songs referring to relationships with our soldiers, while the Decibelles sing a range of music from classical to popular. I have encouraged both choirs to venture into each other's choral repertoire and that has been fun and a challenge as we only have one rehearsal before the big day.
Katy: This will be the first time we have performed as a full choir with the Decibelles, but not the first time some of us have sung with them. Despite us singing different types of music, it's a very comfortable feeling when the Dishies and the Decis come together – we refer to ourselves as the Dishibelles! Joining the two choirs together at the awards night will not only showcase the talented women we have in the North East, but also gives us an opportunity to create a fuller sound with a bigger visual impact.
What can we expect to hear at the Living North Awards?
Ruth: There will be something for everyone. We have a tearjerker for one moment of the evening, but you'll hear familiar songs that should bring a smile. Singing and smiling is very contagious and if I know the women in my choirs, there will be singing and smiling in abundance for all to share!
Katy: You can expect to hear a personal, moving and uplifting arrangement of songs. Our songs can be sad, but that’s because that’s the life we sometimes lead. However, it isn’t always like that. There are many songs that I personally love, but I’m still waiting for one to be written that’s all about those times we don’t really love our men. You know, when they leave the toilet seat up and put empty milk bottles back in the fridge!
If you'd like to know more about the Military Wives Choirs, visit www.militarywiveschoirs.org
You can also keep up to date with the Dishforth Military Wives Choir and The Yorkshire Decibelles via their Facebook pages.