Chaplains see benefits of workplace choirs

Two chaplains who competed in BBC2's The Choir: Sing While You Work show say that the choirs have helped to give workers a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

The Reverend George Lane, Manchester Airport chaplain and choir member, and the Reverend Malcolm Hancock, a chaplain and member of the choir at Lewisham Hospital, agree that a workplace choir has proved to be a great way of boosting team spirit and instilling a sense of pride in employees.

Rev Lane foresees lasting benefits for the airport.

“One choir member spoke of the choir giving them a reason to look their children in the eye and say 'I'm more than the job I do',” he said.

“It's released hidden talents and revealed a different side to the individuals involved and therefore to the wider organisation.

"It's also illustrated and revealed how much dedication way beyond the call of duty there is in an organisation like this - and how that kind of solidarity and spirit depends on a sense of community.”

Rev Hancock said that the hospital choir and its TV appearances had "brought great pride and excitement".

"I would like to think that the choir will continue to be a source of solace, pride and commitment as this particular healthcare trust enters a difficult period,” he said.

Although both choirs were pipped to the top spot by competition winners Severn Trent Water, Rev Lane said the support of so many people was "confirmation that what we've been doing has been worthwhile".

"I hope, and fully believe, that the high spots are still ahead of us. We've just been auditioning for new members, and though a couple have had to drop out since the series finished, we are still growing in confidence, ability, commitment and aspiration," he said.

He continued: “People would never think of an airport as a profoundly spiritual place or a place of prayer, but it really is.

“I've listened (and talked) about Milton with an airfield colleague, God's forgiveness with firefighters.

"During filming you spend so much time hanging around that I was able to have fantastic conversations with choir members, but it's been great having these conversations as part of the choir, not an outsider.”

Rev Hancock, a former professional musician with Manchester's Halle Orchestra, agreed that the experience had enabled him to develop relationships.

“People got to know more of my work and vice versa and as a result – coupled with the sometimes pressurised experience of singing - I got to know specific members of the choir quite well and, yes, we did talk about more personal issues from time to time," he said.

The closing shot of the final episode showed all four choirs assembled on the stage of the Colston Hall for the semi-final results. Each choir had rehearsed one piece in common: How Can I Keep From Singing?, a Christian hymn by Robert Wadsworth Lowry. Before they were told which choir was to be eliminated, members of all choirs asked whether they could sing this song together as one choir of 120 people from four different workplaces.

Rev Lane said: “We'd all rehearsed it and we wanted a chance to sing it. Singing it together was magical and very moving.”

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