A woman who suffered from depression has spoken how joining a choir has changed her life for the better.
Natalie Moore, 38, will be helping to get the festive spirit flowing when she and the rest of the Wrexham Community Choir will be singing at the annual Christmas carols concert at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre from 6.30-7.30pm on Thursday December 22.
Also taking part in the concert will be the Ifton Colliery Band which was formed exactly 100 years ago in the Shropshire village of St Martins near Oswestry by cornetist Ernest Woollham and his brother Percy who played the euphonium.
The choir was started in 2012 when people touched by Gareth Malone’s military wives programme decided to start their own singing group for those with no previous musical experience.
It has since gone on to attract hundreds of members and appear at a host of gigs including Wrexham’s Olympic homecoming party in 2012 and street choir festivals across the UK.
One of the newest recruits is Natalie from Wrexham who said: “I joined just over a year ago after hearing about the choir through a local mental health charity which had been helping me with my depression.
“I’d been having problems for a few years. I was feeling withdrawn and didn’t want to go out and meet people.
“But being part of the choir has made a tremendous difference to me and I now feel much better about myself.
“We don’t just sing at our weekly rehearsals but also go out and perform at all kinds of places.
“I recently took part in a choir festival we did in Leicester and also a choral concert earlier this year when we sang at Eagles Meadow, so I’m looking forward to going back there for the carol concert.
“I always thought I couldn’t sing but now I really enjoy it.”
It’s a similar story with 78-year-old Beryl Partridge from Cefn Mawr near Wrexham who said: “I’ve been a member for the past four years. I’d retired after being in the retail business and found I didn’t have much to do.
“Joining the choir has given me a new lease of life. It’s given me an interest and I’ve made some lovely new friendships.
“Whether you feel like it or not you find yourself going out even in the rain or snow.
“I’m looking forward to singing at Eagles Meadow because people are so friendly when we sing here and the acoustics are fantastic. It’s just like performing in an amphitheatre.”
Choir founder Wendy Paintsill said: “We began as a community cohesion project for people across the area from different backgrounds who had never sung before.
“They idea was they didn’t have to be able to read music or audition but simply turn up and join in.
“We put out the word on social media and in press releases but when we arranged to hold the first meeting at Wrexham Lager Club and I wasn’t sure how many were going to turn up. In the end, there were over 100 people, so many in fact that they were queueing up outside the door. It was astounding.
“We now have over 100 members and have regular weekly rehearsals at Wrexham Methodist Church. We attract people from all sorts of backgrounds, from business to the health service, who are still working or have retired.
“Members’ ages at the moment range from their twenties to their eighties and although the choir is predominantly women we’re always on the lookout for more men to join us.
“We’ve also had people from many countries including Poland, South Africa and Germany. Students moving to the town who’ve joined say it helps them get to know the area.”
Wendy, whose background is in broadcasting, added: “Although we weren’t planning on becoming a performance choir over the years we’ve sung at all sorts of events and venues, from the William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University in Wrexham to the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
“We were part of the Olympic homecoming ceremony in Wrexham in 2012 and have appeared at the Llangollen Fringe Festival.
“We’ve also regularly taken part in national street choir festivals across the UK and developed exchange links with a choir from Poland.
“We’re not so much a choir as a community and many people say that Wrexham never really felt like home until they joined the choir.
“We’ve also seen many solid and lasting friendships develop between members and people tell us that singing helps them to develop their confidence.
“That’s true in the case of retired people who might have spent long periods at home not speaking to anyone or those who have been recently bereaved. They say that being part of it has changed their lives.
“We’re looking forward to singing at Eagles Meadow where we’re aiming to have around 70 members centre under our co-founder and musical director Carol Donaldson.
“We’ll be performing a full programme of carols and well-known seasonal songs and encouraging shoppers to join in with us.
“People get a lot of joy and pleasure from hearing us and we always pull a crowd wherever we go.
“Anyone interested in joining the choir can come along to Wrexham Methodist Church in Regent Street where we meet every Tuesday from 7.30-9.30pm, or they can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/217370578336016/ and Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/WxmChoir”
Eagles Meadow Centre Manager Kevin Critchley said: “We’re very lucky to have two such talented groups of musicians with us for our Christmas concert, which should really help to start off the festive season in style.
“Wrexham Community Choir won many plaudits when it last sang at the centre and it’s fantastic to welcome them back. There will also be a big seasonal welcome for the Ifton Colliery Band as they make their performance debut with us.”