Over the past few weeks In Full Voice (previously the Social Services Choir) has gone from strength to strength. As the group becomes more comfortable, not only has the singing improved, but there has also been dancing, laughing, cake and lots of fun!
Each week we’ve had around 40-50 people along, so we are definitely building momentum! We are gearing up for our performance at the Social Services Expo and we are working on making sure we all know our parts (and remember the words). One thing is for sure, no matter how the event goes, you won’t be able to miss us – we’ll be the ones with the big grins on our faces. Come along and see us on the day – we’ll be singing over lunch.
Our lovely choir-masters (from Initium Arts) will also be hosting various pop-up creative sessions in the afternoon which will be well worth getting involved in. Come along and try it out!
Some comments from In Full Voice members:
“Great to be back in the swing of it last night. Lovely to see the old faces and all the new ones. At the end, we sure made a wall of sound. Astonishing.”
“When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.”
3. Impact Arts: creative pathways
Facilitated by Impact Arts, this SEE session will provide the opportunity for participants to experience first hand the creative pathways approach and delivery methods which build confidence, communication and team work skills.
A message from one of our choir members, Tom Chalmers:
I had been looking for a choir for several years and had given up on finding the right one for me. Then when I heard Lisa from IRISS speaking about the new Social Services Choir, I instantly had a feeling that I had at last found what I had been looking for. This choir, with the more than able leadership of the wonderful duo Gregg and Matt, has been a revelation to me and each week we have created some beautiful sounds and shared many a giggle.
Everyone in the group is so friendly and I cannot wait for a Monday night to come around. Singing gives you peace of mind, is very empowering and I go home feeling energised. I am amazed at the number of songs we have polished off in these first 8 weeks and the choir is an important element of my continued well being. I am also to be involved in a community drumming group and volunteer for the RNIB, and now I feel so lucky that I can add the choir to my list, which completes my Golden Nugget Trilogy.
Social Services Choir is a joint venture by IRISS and Social Care Ideas Factory
She notes that “80% of diagnoses depend on the patient’s story, and studying poetry or literature can enhance students’ narrative competence and improve their ability to relate to different cultures and groups.”
This is consistent with recent research which highlights that the arts have the potential to change the way social services practitioners engage with individuals and also change the way in which support is delivered. It is said that engaging in a new activity – arts or otherwise – often supports staff to engage in dialogue with each other, to review and reflect on their own practice. This has often supported staff to encourage, support and motivate one another in practical situations.
IRISS are writing up the results of an online survey designed to understand the Scottish picture of the use of arts in social services. Coming soon!
Singing together really is one of the best ways to break the ice and get to know each other, and although this is the end of the fourth session of the Social Services choir, it feels like the group has been together for far longer. We’ve been getting chattier and chattier! Some great personalities are starting to show, and in between all of the joking (and Gregg going on about his great shoes) we got great work done on our three songs, Lean on me, You make my dreams come true and Hounds of love.
The next few weeks will have the choir add another song to our repertoire, and (yes we have to!) a Christmas tune towards the end of the block. It’s easy for energy levels to drop in these cold winter months, but the group show no sign of slowing down with attendance still high. Some of the feedback is absolutely incredible!
“I can’t believe how quickly the time passes and how good I think we are beginning to sound”
“Hurry up weekend- I want Monday night now!”
“Just can’t wait, it’s such a good way of releasing tension, my shoulders are much less hunched. Being part of a harmonious group, makes you feel so good. thanks everyone.”
The choir will meet again on Monday, 4th November. It’s not too late to join; we have a firm emphasis on creating a welcoming and fun environment. All you need to do is bring your voice!
It was another great session at the beautiful Wellington Church, the space has to be one of the prettiest rehearsal spaces you could ask for. This week it really felt like the group was getting into its groove, the session was filled with beautiful music and the break filled with busy chatting now we’re getting to know each other!
The reaction to the first few weeks has been incredible. The entire point of the Social Services choir is to bring a community spirit joyfully to the group, and we feel really encouraged by the wide variety of comments like:
“Great fun and really good to get a break from work for a couple of hours. Greg and Matt are fab and have a really good relaxed teaching style which makes the event such fun. I travelled from Stirling last week, Irvine this week and will be traveling from Lochgilphead next Monday and I live an hour away….but it’s worth the travelling! Thank you to IRISS and Trade School. It’s even helping me stop clenching my jaw for a couple of hours relief……cognitive therapy……just a couple of hours with Greg and Matt will sort you out!”
“Singing is good for the soul”
“Another excellent group on Monday 21st October. A really exciting way to spend a driech and Autumnal night. The company was warm and Greg was on fire… We are gaining in confidence and enjoying the singing more and more.”
If you’re curious at all about joining the choir, or think someone you support might get a lot out of it, come on down for a session, you won’t regret it! The choir will meet again on Monday, 28 October. It’s not too late to join; we have a firm emphasis on creating a welcoming and fun environment. All you need to do is bring your voice! Even if you sing like a seagull!
Lisa was joining in and taking some great snaps of the night, here are some action shots:[We’ll try to get some more of Gregg multitasking, posing, playing piano and choir leading!]
Next week we’ll be singing ‘Lean on Me’ – which was one of the suggested songs from our lovely singers. We’re really excited about singing this song as it has such beautiful lyrics and resonates with so many people. Next week, we may even be brave enough to upload an audio clip of our singing to this blog!
No matter how good a first week can go, you can’t help but think “will they return?”.
Thankfully, we were delighted that at the second week of the Social services choir, we had full attendance again, and nearly forty people’s voices were filling up the beautiful space harmoniously at the Wellington Church.
The first week was full of impressive but easy to sing folk songs from Africa, and as fun as they were, the group were happy to have more familiar songs to tackle. On week one, we’d asked the group the types of songs that they liked to sing and the responses could only be described as varied and diverse! So, true to form, week two saw Gregg Muir (of Theatre Nemo) lead a harmony laden arrangement of ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush and his colleague Matt Regan led on ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ by Hall and Oates.
There were lots of smiles and laughs throughout the night – with people talking about how much fun they’d had. There are still plenty of weeks to tackle more songs, if there’s a song you’ve always wanted to sing with a choir, come on down and let us know (or, better yet, let us know in advance by commenting on the blog below).
The choir will meet again on Monday, 21 October. It’s not too late to join; we have a firm emphasis on creating a welcoming and fun environment. All you need to do is bring your voice! Register at: http://tradeschool.coop/Glasgow/class
Last Wednesday (4th Sept) we held our first SEE Session featuring Jane Bentley and a host of special guests, which was a roaring success!
Jane expertly led us in discussion, activities and interactions which were designed to get us thinking about the social power of music. Under her effective facilitation, Jane had a group of 70 diverse individuals from across education, social services and health (the majority of whom had never met before) making music and song in under an hour!
It’s not that I didn’t think it was possible. In fact, it was precisely what I’d hoped for! But the speed and ease at which a room full of professionals opened up, made a contribution and (I’d argue) created something beautiful is amazing to me. But perhaps that is the power of music? Making you realise things you didn’t know about yourself, and achieve things that you didn’t think would be wholly possible?
As part of the day we asked people what ‘creativity’ meant to them. Here are a few of their responses:
“it lets people have fun, be a part of a group or express themselves as an individual. It can be a gateway to the soul”
“creativity means the release of self”
“creativity means doing something new and makes you feel a range of emotions”
I like these comments, but a colleague of mine also pointed out the following definition to me:
Creativity is: “a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies. The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself”
These are all useful to me because I don’t draw (although, I’m reliably told that EVERYONE can draw), I don’t dance (I can just about muster a shuffle) and although I do love singing, I believe myself to be mostly out of tune. But underneath it all, I do think I am creative. I have ideas all the time, I like to try new things and connect things together in different ways. I imagine that this is similar to lots of people out there.
I suppose what this highlights is an underpinning belief that we are all creative in some way. Creativity doesn’t always have to take the form of structured activities, it can be a softer intrinsic part of professional practice, or how you generally are at work.
It is not uncommon for people to turn to the arts as a form of release from the day to day stresses of life. What’s the relevance of this for the social services? That’s what we at IRISS are exploring.
For example, a recent Guardian article, “Music therapy helps children who have witnessed domestic violence” highlighted research from a Housing Association in England into the use of a therapeutic music studio for young children who have witnessed and experienced domestic abuse. The article states, “not only have we found that music instils a sense of achievement and confidence, but it boosts children’s key skills in communication, listening and technology”. The Housing Association also creatively supports the women attending the refuge; setting up a choir, for example, was particularly effective in building self esteem and confidence.
IRISS is similarly interested in the power of music to connect us with our own experiences, as well as connecting us with those around us. So much so, that we’ve designed an event (Tuning in: the social power of music) to bring social services practitioners and artists together to explore these issues. The event is open for bookings and will be run by Jane Bently (whose current work involves developing music in mental health, from secure units to community settings) and will cover the following:
THEORY: the foundations of our innate musical potential and how it engages both social and communicative development
PRACTICE: case studies of exemplary music projects in mental health, dementia care and social services
RESEARCH: examining the broader evidence base
DEVELOPMENT: practical group work that can be adapted for a variety of health and social care settings – and used by ‘non-musicians’!
DISCUSSION: where do we go from here?
So, sign up to come along and hear about how music can be a potent tool for developing both bonding and bridging social capital, particularly for those whom communication and social engagement can be challenging.
But music is just one art form that can help people. Health research has shown that creative interventions for people who have suffered physical or emotional trauma can reduce the psychological impact of that and aid healing. A while back, Trevor Hopkins informed me of a study (over three decades of research) by Dr James Pennebaker on creative writing and immune response/healing (here is a link to a BBC Radio 4 programme that features this work: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rrc11 http://www.iajw.org/public/250.cfm )
The main gist of the intervention is that people with various illnesses were given the task of creatively/expressively and writing down their feelings for four consecutive days. The individuals were given free reign to write about whatever they wanted – related or unrelated to their condition. The results of the research found that writing about painful experiences could enhance immune response, reduce recovery times, and promote physical, psychological, and social well-being.
Interestingly, the research highlighted that it wasn’t the act of documenting experiences that was the therapeutic element (in fact, often people didn’t write about themselves at all!), but it was the expression in a creative form that helped the healing process. Dr Pennebaker says, “People who are able to construct a story, to build some kind of narrative over the course of their writing seem to benefit more than those who don’t.”
These are just two examples out of countless creative endeavors that are relevant to social services. To understand better what is happening in Scotland we have set up a survey to find out from you how you are using the arts and creative interventions to support people better – if you haven’t completed it already, there is still time: