Rock Choir health benefits for St Ives singer

FOR many people a life-changing experience is winning the lottery, the birth of a child or meeting say . . . One Direction?

Ok, so that last example may not be for everyone ... but for one St Ives woman one of her life-changing moments was started by some singing.

Jackie Barnard, 50, joined the biggest choir sensation in the country and said it gave her a whole new lease of life.

Two years ago Mrs Barnard, who is a fibromyalgia sufferer, found it difficult to leave her house, crippled by the debilitating fatigue, sleep-disturbance, joint stiffness and acute pain that accompany the disease.

Fast-forward to November 2012 and the grandmother, who lives Abbots Crescent, is part of a 16,000-strong choir, with three Guinness world records under her belt and a sell-out concert at the O2 arena in July next year.

“It’s the most uplifting experience,” she told The Hunts Post. “I saw the ITV documentary The Choir that Rocks in 2011 and was so inspired by it I decided I wanted to join in. I hadn’t sang since I was at school about 30 or 40 years ago, so I thought ‘yes – I’d really like to do this’.”

Rock Choir was the brainchild of singer and music teacher Caroline Redman Lusher, who dreamed of a choir for anyone and everyone. She founded the project in 2005 and advertised for adult members. No audition, experience of singing or ability to read music was necessary.

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The group now has 16,000 members in more than 220 cities and towns throughout the UK, including Huntingdon where the choir has 87 members.

“What appealed to me was that this was such an inclusive experience,” Mrs Barnard added. “Singing is such a joyful thing to do and has the ability to get into your soul.

“Rock Choir has given me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to exercise my brain.”

Following her diagnosis in 2009, the former nurse was forced to give up work and resigned herself to a life limited by her health.

“This has given me a second lease of life,” she said. “I had to give up so much because of the Fibro but this is something that doesn’t require any strength.

“I plan my days around rehearsals and it gives me such a sense of achievement.”

Choir leader for Cambridgeshire Carrie Rawlings said the health benefits of group singing were well-documented, and the choir had been approached by the NHS about her therapeutic techniques, which are based on rote-learning rather than creative understanding.

“Some of our members are recovering from illness, heartbreak, or hardship and coming to Rock Choir gives them a chance to forget about life,” she said. “It allows them to come together socially and it’s scientifically proven that singing release endorphins into the body, so people get a real lift.”

Mrs Barnard added: “The sheer joy of singing in front of an audience in public is amazing. I’ve finally found something that has given me back my self-worth.”

INFORMATION: Rock Choir will be singing at the Huntingdon Christmas lights switch-on on November 25 and in St Neots on November 30. They will also be performing at London’s 02 in July 2013. For details on joining the choir visit