Kentish Town choir for Parkinson’s disease sufferers celebrates 10th anniversary

Sing for Joy

Sing for Joy - Credit: Archant

A choir made up of sufferers of a crippling disease is celebrating a decade of helping to boost the health and happiness of its members.

Nina Temple (red scarf)

Nina Temple (red scarf) - Credit: Archant

Kentish Town choir Sing for Joy was founded by Parkinson’s disease sufferer Nina Temple, former secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain before it disbanded in 1991.

The Tufnell Park resident, 57, started the group because she was determined to do something positive after being diagnosed in her early 40s. “I was quite overcome with feelings of sadness and frustration that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I’d always wanted to do.

“One summer I went to a holiday retreat and did some singing. That made me think it was something creative you could do even if your hands are shaking and you can’t walk very well.”

While Ms Temple was mulling over the need for a choir that would be sympathetic to disability, Parkinson’s UK received a grant from the Millennium Commission.

She was able to secure some of this money, which was earmarked for the creation of community projects, and so Sing for Joy was born.

“It’s very uplifting,” she said. “If you’re ill it can be quite a lonely business, but over the years a whole little community has grown, people have got to know each other, look out for each other. And a lot of people really look forward to it as the best night of the week.”

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The choir, which rehearses at the Kentish Town Health Centre, in Bartholomew Road, now has some 25 members who are all sufferers of the degenerative disorder or other chronic conditions.

It counts top jazz singer Carol Grimes as its musical director, while renowned Dartmouth Park pianist Dorian Ford provides the backing.

Ms Grimes said: “The most important thing is that the person leading it knows about the health of the voice, because the last thing you want is people damaging their voice on top of having these illnesses.”

The singer has trained specially with a speech therapist so as to be in the best position to harness the therapeutic effects of singing for the group.

Ms Temple paid tribute to the jazz star’s ability to generate amazing enthusiasm.

“Members end up singing away together with their carers and you can see it alters the chemistry of their relationship,” she said.

The group marked its 10th anniversary with a big show at Stoke Newington Town Hall. Speaking about the benefits of performing, Ms Temple said: “Suddenly on the night, with the rush of adrenaline as the floodlights go up and everybody’s on the stage, we really pull it together and it feels quite powerful and surprising that we can sing so well.”

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