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Cheyne Gang Singing Group

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I congratulate Gordon MacDonald on securing this important debate. As someone who suffers from asthma and respiratory difficulties, which are exacerbated by toxic fumes, I have great empathy with this issue and the work that the Cheyne Gang has done with people who, like me, live with long-term respiratory conditions.

The Cheyne Gang is a wonderful example of how communal singing can change lives for the better—something that the general practice nurses who created the group were aware of. I congratulate them on their work and the success of the group. I must say that I especially enjoyed reading on the Cheyne Gang website that

“Singing in a choir is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and more fun than working out”.

I am tempted to look for a choir to join, although sadly, like others, my attempts at “Paper Roses” can clear a room—you do not want to hear it.

I understand that choir singing in the United Kingdom is at an all-time high, with more than 2 million people singing regularly in choirs, and not just in traditional singing choirs. My friend Mary McDevitt, who is a British Sign Language interpreter, has led a signing choir that has performed at the Scottish Parliament’s annual carol concert for the past few years.

The church that I attend—St Patrick’s, Coatbridge—has an adult and a children’s choir that sing every Sunday and at special events. Choir members benefit from company and friendship at their meetings and their practices, and they have gained from other experiences, such as singing at Bellahouston park for the Pope. The children’s choir offers inclusion and confidence building to the children, and their parents and grandparents get bragging rights. Parishioners gain from the lovely voices leading the hymns, and that is about the only time that I do any singing—when it is disguised by other people.

Most choirs are self-funding. We must surely consider the multiple benefits of being part of a choir when we look at further funding for them and, indeed, for participation in all musical activities.