GRAFFHAM FESTIVAL: An evening with Petworth Voices

Emily Barden, vocal leader with West Sussex Music, is hoping for a bumper turn-out as she offers the chance to share the joy of singing at the Graffham Festival.

Monday, 11th July 2016, 9:22 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:24 am

She is staging An Evening with Petworth Voices on Tuesday, July 19 from 6-8pm at Graffham’s Empire Hall (GU28 0NL). The first part features an hour-long workshop in which everyone (seven and up) is welcome to join (pre-booking essential).

And then, after a break, the evening offers a 40-minute concert.

“I was introduced to Jim Kirke who runs the Graffham Festival, and he asked would I be interested in getting involved,” Emily said. “I set up Petworth Voices as one of three adult community choirs that I run through West Sussex Music. Petworth Voices is the youngest of those choirs.

“Basically it is an open-access adult community choir which means anybody can come along and sing. You don’t need to be able to sing. You don’t have to have experience. You just turn up. You don’t have to make a commitment, but the brilliant thing is that once people start coming along, it does feel like a commitment because they want to come along.

“And it works really well. We have got between 45 and 50 people that are regularly singing with us, and they make a really good sound. I don’t think Jim knew much about the choir, but he was looking for something interesting for people to do. My feeling is Graffham Festival wanted something where people could actually join in rather than just see. I offered to do an hour-long workshop that was open to everyone as part of the evening. That’s the first element – and then after a break it will be the concert, with a few surprises!”

Emily says you will be delighted just how much ground you can cover in an hour: “I would hope to get through a couple of rounds and some simple part-songs, and then I should hope to do something a little bit more complicated, always unaccompanied. We are looking for any age over seven, though children under 16 need to be accompanied.”

As for her style, expect relaxed and fun, says Emily: “There is a lot of humour and enjoyment. It is quite fast-paced. I demonstrate everything. I sing something, and then people just sing it back. I don’t use pieces of music very often. Everything is done by ear.”

And the whole point?

“Singing is just brilliant for you. All the people that come to join the choir say so. One of the genuine physical things is the feel-good chemicals that you definitely get. It is great to sing, and when you are singing with other people, it is even better. And then there is the mental side. It stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously. Your left side and your right side are working together. People who are new to it can get quite a rush! And people are telling me all the time how different it makes them feel. I get quite a lot of older people coming in, in their 70s and 80s, and sometimes it can be almost the only proper social interaction that they get in the week, and they love it. The confidence they get from it really affects them, and that gives me quite a sense of responsibility. I know it is important for them.”

Emily will be hoping to build up a Graffham Festival presence: “You don’t stumble on Graffham. You have to know it is there, and I am hoping the workshop will be opening the festival up to lots of different people and helping to put Graffham on the map.”

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