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Fiona Walsh, Director of the Ennis Gospel Choir, who are about to hold auditions, in anticipation of their new show The Parish Hall Tour, which will tour halls around the county over the next eighteen months. Photograph by John Kelly

Really Truly Joyful Ennis Gospel Choir seeking new members

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The Really Truly Joyful Ennis Gospel Choir are on song for a post Covid return. The popular choir are relaunching their programme and they are currently recruiting new members.

The choir will be holding an open night on Thursday, February 9 at 7.30pm in the Chapel Lane Community Hall in Ennis. There are no formal auditions as such required to join the choir, but you do need to have a basic singing ability and a willingness to sing.

“If you’ve ever wanted to join a choir, make new friends and have a bit of fun through the medium of music, then we are the group for you,” says director Fiona Walsh.

“There’s no formal audition, just come along to our open night. We are quite a friendly, inclusive bunch, exuding enthusiasm and joy wherever we go ……and that’s why we’re called the Really Truly Joyful Ennis Gospel Choir. This spring we are developing a show that we plan to take on tour around towns and villages all over County Clare, aptly called The Parish Hall Tour. Our aim is to link in with local community groups and stage a show in community centres and parish halls, involve local talent, and hopefully help the town or village to fundraise for a local group or cause.”

Choir member Jane Gunnigan says joining the choir was “one of the best things I did when I moved to Clare in 2015.”

“I was new to the area, knew only a handful of people locally, but I always had an interest in singing. I hadn’t sung as part of a choir since my school days, which is neither today nor yesterday!

“Two of my siblings are in choirs in other parts of the country, and were always telling me what a great hobby it is, so it was on my ‘To do’ list. I saw the Ennis Gospel Choir singing at the St Patrick’s Day parade that year, and straight away I knew this was the choir I wanted to join.

“Almost eight years later, I have made so many friends through the choir and it’s given me a fantastic sense of belonging to a community. You can walk into a rehearsal or gig exhausted after a long day at work, and by the end, you’re just buzzing, energised, full of the joys of life. It really is fun!”

Choral singing was once solely associated with Convent Schools and large male Welsh voice choirs, but that idea of choral music has changed radically in recent years.

Music has been found in all human cultures around the world and group singing has long been found to help forge social bonds and bring people together in ways which are hard to mimic in other aspects of life.

Ennis Gospel Choir’s repertoire ranges from liturgical and gospel pieces, to fun covers of contemporary pop songs from artistes and groups such as Katie Perry, Pink, David Guetta and Clean Bandit, so there really is something for everyone in there.

There has been a lot in the media in recent years about the benefits of choir singing for mental health. It has long been believed that music making can create a strong sense of well-being, reducing stress levels and anxiety.

Music exercises the brain as well as the body, but singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture and muscle tension. Listening to and participating in music has even been shown to be an effective method of pain relief, probably due to the release of neurochemicals and endorphins (a natural painkiller responsible for the ‘high’ experienced after intense exercise).

There is also some evidence to suggest that music can play a role in sustaining a healthy immune system by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the Immunoglobulin A antibody.

Research by the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology in York has found that group singing can actually synchronise the heartbeats of those participating. Controlling the variability of heart rate is thought to have positive impacts on physical health.

“You say, ‘But I haven’t sang in years’! Well don’t let that stop you! Your voice is a muscle, which, like any other muscle, can be trained, meaning that singing is one of the most accessible forms of music that we can make. The more often you sing, the stronger your voice becomes. You may just need to find the right choir to help develop your voice!

“Starting something new is always daunting, but taking the plunge into the world of choir singing is something you won’t regret. If you are nervous about joining the choir, don’t be.

“Head along to the open night on February 9 where you will be met with a welcome and a smile. We’ll have tea and cake at the end first night so you can get to chat to members old and new.

“If all you do in that first night is sit at the back of the room and take it all in, that’s fine, like us all you’ll soon find your voice and join in the fun,” says Fiona.

More info about Ennis Gospel Choirs’ upcoming open night is available on their Facebook page or by mailing ennisgospelchoir@gmail.com

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