A woman who nursed her mother through the trauma of cancer before being diagnosed with the disease herself has spoken of how joining an “inspirational” choir has given her a new zest for life.
And the group of joyful singers which Debbie Povey joined is tuning up for a live performance in a Wrexham shopping centre later this month.
The Wrexham Sing With Us Choir, formed three years ago by Welsh cancer charity Tenovus, will hit the high notes at Eagles Meadow during the first Wrexham Choral Festival on Saturday, September 24.
The musical extravaganza, which will see over 20 choirs from North Wales and the North West of England singing in various venues across the town, is the brainchild of Wrexham MP Ian Lucas who has arranged it to showcase the vibrancy of the area.
The festival is being sponsored to the tune of £1,000 apiece by Eagles Meadow and Wrexham Crimelink, with Dee Valley Water chipping in with a further £250.
At least four choirs will perform at Eagles Meadow during the day, including the Tenovus ensemble which aims to lift the spirits of cancer patients, survivors, carers and relatives.
And, according to one of its keenest members, that’s exactly what the choir has managed to do for her.
Debbie Povey spent 14 years lovingly nursing her late mother through breast cancer before being told by doctors back in 2006 that she herself had the same condition.
She said: “It was a very aggressive form of breast cancer which meant I had to undergo a double mastectomy, the first in 2006 and the second in 2008.
“Then in 2013 I developed a large abdominal tumour but after having surgery for that too I was told I was responding to treatment and seem to be clear at the moment.”
She added: “The whole experience left me feeling vulnerable and knocked my confidence.
“Then I heard about the Tenovus choir from friends in a cancer support group. I was too poorly to join at that time but when I recovered I signed up right away after going to hear them sing at a concert in Wrexham.
“I was hooked right away, especially when I saw what a lovely bubbly leader they had in Izzy Rodrigues.
“I’ve loved it ever since and have sung in all sorts of places, including the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2014, 2015 and again this year and at Pinewood Studios for a slot on the National Lottery show last October.
“It’s a real inspiration to everyone and has changed my life by helping to build up my confidence again. Everyone is always so happy and the last thing we ever talk about is cancer.
“Like everyone else, I’m looking forward very much to singing at Eagles Meadow.”
According to choir leader Izzy, it’s a scientifically proven fact that singing can benefit those whose lives have been touched by cancer.
She said: “Research shows it can help by reducing isolation, anxiety and depression, which is why, with the help of a £1 million lottery grant, Tenovus launched a project back in 2010 called Sing With Us to set up a network of choirs for people affected by cancer.
“There are now 19 of these across Wales and England and our Wrexham choir is one of them.
“We meet each Monday at Capel y Groes in Wrexham town centre and have about 80 members on our books, ranging in age from 10 to 90.
“They are either people who have cancer or survived it, carers or people who have been bereaved by it.
“There’s no audition and we sing uplifting numbers by the likes of Queen or Take That.
“Everyone enjoys it and it’s a great way to forget your troubles for a while.
“In fact, Tenovus has just completed some biological research with its choirs in which people had to give saliva samples before and after rehearsals.
“Amazingly, this showed that singing for just one hour reduces stress hormones and boosts the immune system.”
The Wrexham choir led by Izzy, who has a music degree from Bangor University and once sang herself with the Flintshire Senior Choir, performs in public at least once a month.
It’s usually at community events like fairs and village festivals in and around Wrexham but in May last year it teamed up with the other Tenovus groups for a mass choral festival at St David’s Hall in Cardiff hosted by West End star Connie Fisher, a patron of the singing project.
The choir delighted crowds when they sang on the Welsh Government stand at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July 2015.
They also recently did a guest spot on the BBC Radio Wales show hosted by opera star Wynne Evans who is another patron.
One of the choir’s next big dates will be Tenovus’s annual Love Light fundraising concert at St Giles Church, Wrexham on November 24.
Izzy said: “Before that, we can’t wait to for our appearance at Eagles Meadow. Although we’ve sung many times in Wrexham before this will be our first time at the shopping centre which is bustling all the time and will be a fantastic place to perform.”
Ian Lucas MP, who organised the event, said: “During the choral festival, which will be timed to coincide with the annual Wrexham Street Festival, we’ll have a variety of choirs singing in venues including Eagles Meadow, Chester Road, Brook Street, Queen Square and outside Wrexham Museum.
“It’s all part of the drive by the Town Centre Forum to attract people to the area and show what a vibrant place Wrexham is with so much to see and do.
“The area has a strong tradition of music and has some very good and acclaimed choirs.
“Among the choirs performing will be two – one from Wrexham and another from Chester – who convey the music by using sign language and there are also some well-known names such as the Syrenian Singers and Cantorian Rhos.
“At Eagles Meadow on the day, apart from the Tenovus Choir, we also have the Bebington Bitter Men, a community male voice choir from the Wirral, the Mountain Harmony Ladies’ Chorus from Mold, Côr Cytgan Clwyd from Dyserth and the singers from Ysgol Bodhyfryd in Wrexham.
“It should be a very exciting occasion both for the choirs taking part and for those who see them performing.”
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley said: “I think the Wrexham Choral Festival is a brilliant idea and I’m really looking forward to hearing all choirs sing.
“The success of the Wrexham Sing With Us Choir and Debbie’s personal journey shows how uplifting and inspirational music can be. It is going to be a wonderful occasion here at Eagles Meadow and at other venues in the town.”
Anyone interested in joining the Tenovus choir in Wrexham, can ring the support line on 0808 808 1010 for more details and to hear them sing go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWOtRKEX7rQ