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Modern choirs for people who love to sing

Happy birthday inChoir!

inChoir is 7 years old today, so here is a special 'bumper' blog post, filled with interviews and memories of the early days.

From very humble beginnings, we have grown over the years to have nearly 900 members across our 12 adult choirs, as well as having children's and teenage choirs inChoon and inSynch!

On Shrove Tuesday in 2009, inChoir opened its very first doors in East Grinstead. 13 people turned up that that first session!

I'm sure that members who have joined along the way would be interested to know how inChoir became the success it is today, so I took this opportunity to spring an 'interview' on Mark!

How did inChoir first come about?
Karen and I had done some amateur theatre together, and of course in the theatre, only one person can be the star. So we discussed how nice it would be to have something where anybody and everybody could join in. And bring their husband/sister/Mum. "How about a choir?" we thought, "singing popular songs." Well, in the way of things, Karen started on a new production (one that eventually became Rudy), so I asked Sue if we should give it a go, and she said yes.

What were your thoughts at that very first session in East Grinstead?
Will anybody come? It was Shrove Tuesday on that first night, and the Jubilee Community Centre were doing pancakes. The place was rammed with people, but none of them seemed to be coming to inChoir. Eventually there were 14 of us, and my next thought was, will they come back?

At the start, what was your biggest hope for the future of inChoir?
At the start I just hoped it would give people a relaxed fun environment in which to learn some songs and do a bit of singing. With hopefully no stress and a welcome for everybody

Did you ever imagine it would become so large, and that you would one day lead 500 singers at the Brighton Dome!?
Well I'm quite a dreamer actually. I imagined all sorts of things. But actually The Dome, like many of the things that have happened, I could never have dreamt of. Hiring big theatres is a very scary thing to do, and it's way beyond anything i could have imagined we'd ever do.

When 'away holidays' first came about and inChoir travelled to Morzine in France, would you have believed it if someone had told you that you would travel to the Arctic Circle, Cape Town, Boston USA, Prague...?
No. Holidays were never on the agenda originally. But I can honestly say we've had more laughs and more tears than you could ever believe. We sang at The Waterfront Amphitheatre in Cape Town with two local choirs, and afterwards I think everybody was crying. It was so beautiful, so emotional, so incredibly lovely. Everybody was hugging everybody else. On our last song, I leaned back in the sunshine, and looked over the shoulders of our, by now multi-cultural alto section at Table Mountain in the distance, and ....... well, you can't buy that kind of feeling.

Are there any locations or gig hopes and dreams remaining on your 'inChoir bucket list'?
Oh yes. The Royal Albert Hall. Singing with more big stars. Singing with a live orchestra. Learning and perhaps recording an original song .....

What are your top 3 moments from the last 7 years?
Only three? Definitely recording two songs at Abbey Road. Singing at The Minack Theatre in Cornwall. The Prague Christmas Market with such a huge appreciative audience. Our two appearances on The One Show. Singing to Princess Anne at St James' Palace. Singing with Russell Watson. But more importantly, in the case of literally every single inChoir member, meeting some of the loveliest, kindest, funniest people you could ever hope to meet

I also managed to catch up with Caroline Rogers and Lynne Fallowell, who have been members of inChoir since that very first session...

Caroline:

“It was a cold February evening, Shrove Tuesday, at the Jubilee Center in East Grinstead. Through nearly every door were people making and eating pancakes, except for one...where there stood a slightly anxious looking Mark. Worried, I think, that no-one would come. Into the room filed 13 people who sort of knew each other.

Who knew that 7 years later we would still be singing together and the acquaintances have grown to friendships. Mark, Sally, Sue and Peter were all there. Mark was still telling the same jokes...we laughed then! The warm ups were new to most of us and we grew to love the daffodils.

'Shine' was the first song we sang and I still remember the joy when we all sang the right notes, in the right places, at the right time. This is a joy that still remains across the hundreds of songs we have now covered. 'Seasons of Love' (from Rent) was an early favourite.

inChoir has become a constant factor in all our lives and we are all so glad that Mark took the leap of faith and set up inChoir!”

Lynne:

“Having been friends with Mark and Sue since we first moveed to East Grinstead 22 years ago and having been a keen singer all my life, I was very happy to go along to the very first inChoir session at the Jubilee Community Centre, East Grinstead, on Shrove Tuesday 2009.

There were about 13 of us altogether, mainly friends of the Heppells, including myself, my daughter Helen (now Heppell), a pregnant Karen, Amanda, Kath Lunn. Unfortunately, I can't remember what we actually sang that night, I just remember that it was fun and I was happy to go back again the next week. After a month or so the numbers had increased so we had to move to a larger room at JCC. Then, after a few months, probably due to our first concert at Chequer Mead, we had to move to the bigger room that we still use.

The fun factor of inChoir, together with the pleasure of singing, attracted ever more people until the original choir became 2 with the opening of the Haywards Heath branch.

The rest, as they say, is history and inChoir continue to expand into new locations.

inChoir gives people the chance to perform in all sorts of venues: supermarkets, Nationatl Trust properties, High Streets – I think I have only missed one May Day performance in East Grinstead High Street and that is because I had gone to Cornwall with inChoir to sing at The Minack Theatre.

This is another great aspect of inChoir. It gives you the chance to go on singing holidays to amazing places. I have sung with them in Morzine in the French Alps (the first inChoir holiday), The Minack Theatre, Cape Town, Cadbury's World, Boston USA and the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls. My next trip is to Tuscany in May this year. If it hadn't been for inChoir I am sure I would never have been to Cape Town or the USA as my husband hates flying, but doesn't mind me going on these trips.

I have also sung twice with Blake and once with Russell Watson, as well as for the Not Forgotten Association at St James' Palace. Many time I have got home on Tuesday evening absolutely stressed and shattered after starting work at 7:30am, then going straight to Rainbows after work (I am a Rainbow Guide leader) to have a quick dinner before going to choir. Yet, by the end of the session, you feel happy and revived and go home singing the evening's songs.

Who would have thought, that evening seven years ago, that inChoir would become such an important part of my life and bring happiness to so many people, including the couple we met in Cape Town who had just got engaged. They came to our concert and so enjoyed our performance of 'Perfect Day' that the Groom asked us to go and sing at their wedding. The Bride, Andrea, had no idea we would be there. We went by coach up to Coventry, both the M40 and M1 were closed due to accidents so we had to go through the Cotswold villages and thought she would see us arrive. But luckily she didn't and her face was a picture when she was brought to the room we were in and heard us singing. How we managed to keep singing through the tears, I don't know!

I have made many new friends through inChoir and I am sure I will make many more in the future.”

What more can I say, except for....here's to the next 7 years!!

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments – especially if you have something you'd like to see or say in a future blog post.

Website: www.inchoir.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/inchoir
Twitter: @inchoir
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