Croydon carers’ choir: singing with those who care

By - Thursday 23rd April, 2015

Music can reach where words cannot, says Katie Rose, leader of Croydon carers’ choir

Singing with those who care. Photo author’s own.

Since October 2014, I’ve had the honour of leading free singing sessions for carers. They take place every other Wednesday at the Carers Information Centre. The group is open to any carer in Croydon, regardless of singing ability, and was set up by Catherine Pestano of CRISP (Croydon Intercultural Singing Project). It’s been such a moving experience with the unsung heroes and heroines of our communities who daily support those in need of care.

The carers choir has great fun singing a wide range of music from around the globe including pop, gospel, folk and world. Participants are involved in the choice of songs – one carer has even set lyrics about caring to the tunes of well-known songs such as those by Right Said Fred.

In their own words, carers describe the sessions as ‘uplifting,’ ‘cathartic’, ‘enjoyable’ and ‘better than stress pills’. They enjoy the ‘beautiful themes’ of the songs and find a great ‘emotional release’ in singing together. The sessions are ‘liberating’ – as inhibitions and tensions are released, enabling them to feel ‘renewed’, ‘relaxed’ and ‘joyous’.

Well-being, emotional release and those vital ‘social vitamins’ – singing has a host of benefits

So what’s happening to bring about these positive states? Recent studies by institutions such as the Sidney de Haan Centre at the University of Canterbury have demonstrated that singing has a host of health benefits including:

Physical wellbeing – singing is a gentle cardio-vascular work-out which gets feet tapping and even dancing! Studies show that it regulates the breath cycle, heart rate and releases ‘happy hormones’ (endorphins.) All sessions start with simple warm-up exercises designed to release tension, deepen the breath and open the voice.

Mental clarity – singing requires us to focus on learning melodies and lyrics: it’s a great brain-gym which brings us into the present moment, alleviating worries and anxieties.

Emotional release – singing can be a wonderful safety valve for releasing our feelings, especially when we sing songs that resonate with our current situation.

Confident self-expression – learning and creating a song together brings a great feeling of satisfaction. The choir gives carers space to express and focus on themselves and their own wellbeing.

Photo author’s own.

Social vitamins – singing together brings a feeling of solidarity. The Carers’ Support Centre has a wonderfully warm atmosphere and everyone in the group is very positive and encouraging of each other – we spend time talking and getting to know each other.

Fun – and most importantly, singing is fun: it’s a way to celebrate the ups and downs of life together. We had a wonderful party at Christmas where members of the dance class joined us and shimmied along to some seasonal classics.

People can feel scared about singing – but we can overcome these fears

As the research into the health benefits of singing grows, there are now an increasing number of groups in hospitals and community settings. Examples include Singing for The Brain for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and Singing for Breathing sessions for those with respiratory issues which I facilitate at the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. It’s so moving to see those facing health challenges and their carers smiling, laughing and singing together.

Many people may feel a little scared about joining a singing group – including those who were told that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ or were asked to mime instead of sing in the school choir. I hear so many stories of humiliation, shaming or teasing that has left people feeling unable to sing or express themselves freely. The good news is that we can overcome these fears. I understand that it takes courage to sing, and so I ensure that no-one is put on the spot and that everyone knows they always have a choice whether they want to participate in a song or activity. Warm ups are designed to put everyone at ease and to start having fun together – breathing exercises are particularly important because when we allow ourselves to stop and take a deep breath, we immediately become calmer. We also sing a diverse range of songs so that people can explore their voices and enjoy different styles of singing.

It’s an honour and a joy to sing with people who are so generous and giving

My grandmother was deaf, so I grew up with an understanding that we all have very different abilities and that we need to support those who are vulnerable. I began working in caring roles with children with special needs in my teens and ran a holistic therapy service for adults with special needs in residential care. I’ve witnessed the incredible impact that music can have for those with sensory impairments and debilitating health conditions – as a sound vibration, it can reach places that words cannot.

Whilst I’ve never been a full-time carer, I do understand the rewards and the challenges involved in supporting those who are vulnerable. Carers are generous, giving people who deserve it some TLC, and it is a great honour and immense joy to sing with them.

Carers can simply come along to the sessions every other Wednesday from 11:00am–12.15pm. New members are always welcome and no previous singing experience is required. For info and bookings, you can contact Ruth Laws on 020 8649 6280 or

The Carers’ Information Service and Carers Support Centre are at 24 George Street, Croydon, CR0 1PB (right by George Street tram stop) and you can contact them here.

To contact Katie Rose about the carers choir and events for Carers’ Week in June visit or .

Katie Rose

Katie Rose

Katie Rose - Singer, Composer, Conductor, Writer - Katie loves singing and helping people sing. Described by the Guardian as a 'fine singer' and by fRoots magazine as an 'eye (and ear) opener,' she has released three albums. Committed to creating uplifting, inclusive experiences of singing, Katie has led singing sessions in hospitals, hospices, festivals and community choirs across London. Convinced of the power of music to make waves in the world she has conducted mass choral events for Sing for Water and is directing Croydon's first Festival of Peace 2018. For more information visit

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