How SYHO started, and what happened since
Our story starts long ago, in 1862……
When the medical Superintendent of the Norfolk Mental Hospital formed an orchestra of staff and patients. They played regularly, often with specially scored music until about 1930.
Then in 1988…..
St Andrews Hospital was being closed down. Among the things found in the clear out was a pile of the same music used by the orchestra. Local theatrical lighting engineer Jim Lawes felt this was too important just to dump, and so it found its way into the hands of David Juritz, lead violinist of the London Mozart Players.
David had formed a part-time “Asylum Band” playing some of the specially pieces. Dr Steve Cherry, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia with a particular expertise in the history of health and medicine had written a history of the Norfolk Asylum, and learned about the music.
Through him. David Juritz found his way to Maggie Wheeler, Chair of the local NHS mental health trust, the successors to that old asylum.
Maggie told the story to her colleagues, and challenged them to form a Tribute Band.
The challenge was taken up by Psychotherapist Tracy Morefield, herself a keen singer who believed that being involved with making music has a very direct therapeutic benefit.
And so began Sing Your Heart Out…..
In 2005 …..
SYHO really started to get going, weekly sessions, were held at Hellesdon Hospital, voice coach Chrissy Parsons West started leading the workshops.
Already we were hearing about successes, with former SYHO members joining community choirs, starting to talk about how singing improved their self-confidence and sense of wellbeing.
SYHO attracted the interest of the local press, and the Department of Health invited SYHO to be part of a study on the benefits of the arts for health.
The workshops gained in popularity. Money was tight, but more and more people had heard about the project.
The local press were supportive and interested, and the BBC made a Radio 4 programme “The Asylum Band” featuring Sing Your Heart Out and the London Mozart Players. SYHO at last met David Juritz!
At the end of the year SYHO won its first award - £5000.
By now SYHO was clear what it wanted to be – inclusive (no one who come s needs to identify themselves as a service user or carer) workshop based (there may be an occasional performance but these are sessions you can dip in and out of as you feel) and above all….FUN. It was also starting to be service user led.
Then in 2007…..
SYHO really got on the map. Conversations had been going on for some time with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, who commissioned both SYHO and the London Mozart Players to perform.
Workshops turned into rehearsals, as SYHO remained faithful to its roots of inclusion and openness, while putting together a performance worthy of such a prestigious event. Members of one of Chrissy’s choirs, Hearts and Voices joined SYHO for the festival programme. Composer Fraser Trainer worked with SYHO to develop a special piece. Amid great nervousness SYHO arrived at the venue, meeting and rehearsing for the first time with the London Mozart Players on the day of the performance itself!
The concert went down a storm, was well reviewed. Families and friends were proud and amazed to hear the beautiful music that SYHO made.See Comments
Tracy Morefield, still the driving force behind the project was invited to Downing Street, SYHO sang in public in front of Rick Wakeman, the BBC commissioned a short TV programme and SYHO started to be invited to conferences.
SYHO was ready to take flight. It had always met at Hellesdon Hospital, but now a grant from Norfolk Community Foundation meant there was money to rent premises in the community, so SYHO moved to the Phoenix Centre in Norwich.
By now SYHO had attended conferences in Folkestone, been in the Evening News, on the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 and in the Independent Nurse.
Saw us extending our boundaries. A second SYHO started in Kings Lynn. Our first “Big Sing” happened in Fakenham, attracting SYHO regulars from West Norfolk and Norwich as well as many more local people – the church hall we had rented overflowed with song and laughter.
SYHO also presented at the mental health trust’s AGM, where over 300 people including the Trust’s directors and governors found themselves joining in the singing.
Was the year SYHO South started. The third group made us realise we needed each group to be consistent, but also independent, thus able to access local funds.
A large social care conference saw the director of social services joining in the singing.
We knew we were on to something – we could get anyone to sing!
SYHO went from strength to strength. We sorted out things like committees, and policies and financial procedures - boring but necessary to prove we are keeping people and their money safe.
SYHO is still going strong. Over the years we have been on the radio, the TV, and in the papers. We have spoken at conferences across the country, won awards, met the prime minister, and attended endless local events promoting singing as an inherently therapeutic activity. We have held events at church halls and village halls, and we have been supported by The Rotary Club, Goldsmiths, and Theatre Royal among others
We attract up to 100 people a week at the three workshops.
Musical direction is still under the creative talent that is Chrissy Parsons West, who gets a beautiful sound from whoever turns up.
Tea, biscuits, and cake are available to everyone, along with a warm welcome.
There are many reasons for coming to a SYHO workshop – but the main one we thing, is that it’s all about having fun.
….watch this space