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Newry choir marks charity status with big band extravaganza

'Our oldest choir member is 80 and our youngest is three, so it was just all of those lovely qualities brought together to create something very special'

A Newry-based choir has held a ‘Big Band Night’ to celebrate and mark their recent milestone of becoming a registered charity.

The event, which took place on Saturday evening, filled Newry Town Hall with music and song, seeing performances from a variety of musical acts which helped keep the packed crowd entertained.

‘Walkin on Sunshine – Big Band Night’ was organised by ‘Friends of the Choir Studio’, a newly registered charity in Newry that over the years has raised over £40,000 for the Southern Area Hospice and other local charities.

Its key aim is summed up in the group’s motto – “creating a healthier and happier world through music and song”.

One of those performing on the night was 14-year-old Emily Flanagan, who left no dry eyes in the house with her performance of  ‘Never Enough’ from The Greatest Showman. This was Emily’s first performance since she appeared on The Voice Kids just after last Christmas.

Speaking to Armagh I, Kathy McCaughey, who is instrumental in the running of the choir, says they have big ambitions to do good in the local community.

“The Choir Studio opened about four years ago and since we opened our doors, we have raised £40,000 for local charities. We realised when we raised this money that music was very powerful and that by using music, we could raise money to help causes and highlight social issues”, she said.

“We’re very lucky within our choir. We have a cardiologist, a speech therapist, a special needs teacher and stay-at-home mummies.

“All of these girls realised the good that the Choir Studio was bringing, not only the charity side but for people’s mental health. Just coming to choir, the feeling of happiness that it gives you and the intergenerational singing.

“Our oldest choir member is 80 and our youngest is three, so it was just all of those lovely qualities brought together to create something very special.”

It was this positive impact that the choir was having on those involved, along with the charity fundraising successes, that motivated the group to dream bigger. This led to the choir lodging a successful application for status as a registered charity.

A keen singer, Kathy spearheaded the project from humble beginnings to what it is today.

“I’ve sung my whole life and it actually started off with six wee children that came to sing around my kitchen table,” she said.

“I used to take them to sing at church events or charity events and every week I would get another phone call asking me if someone else’s child could join.

“We quickly outgrew the kitchen table and acquired premises in Newry. Some of the mummies said to me one day, ‘maybe we could give singing a go’ and the adult choir started.

“Then the grannies’ choir started called the ‘Young at Hearts’ and it just grew from there. We have over 100 people that come through our doors every week.

“Now that we have charity status, we’re just hoping to expand that to make music projects accessible to all, whether it’s children with learning disabilities, adults with learning disabilities or people with dementia.”

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