Remote Choir or Côr Pellenig (in Welsh) is an innovative new singing project which aims to combine the words and voices of older people who experience loneliness and create an inspiring digital song.
The Remote Choir project is working with 11 people connected by the fact that they are over the age of 50 and they struggle to get out of the house. The participants are a diverse group, who, for one reason or another have experienced their lives getting smaller and more isolated in recent years. Some participants are in the early stages of dementia, others are physically limited by conditions such as MS, Diabetes and chronic breathing problems.
From the comfort of their own homes, participants are now taking part in a series of 1:2:1 singing workshops with talented Welsh singer-songwriter Molara Awen (Zion Train & Baka Beyond), supported by local volunteer Singing Buddies. As well as learning songs, breathing and relaxation techniques, participants are working with Molara to create a new song based on their stories and experiences, hopes and dreams.
Loneliness is an issue of growing concern in the UK and a problem that disproportionately affects Pembrokeshire; a predominantly rural county with poor transport links and a higher than average population of elderly people.
Research shows that lacking social connection is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. According to research conducted by the Campaign To End Loneliness, around two thirds of people in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire have suffered with loneliness and say that admitting you’re lonely to others is difficult; A majority of the over 65’s say the reason for this is they don’t want to be a burden.
The Remote Choir project will be supporting the work of Digital Communities Wales by inspiring isolated people from rural areas to get online. Where appropriate, sessions are introducing participants to simple online tools such as YouTube (to look up and listen to songs) and WhatsApp (to send and listen to voice recordings). Span Arts will be working with creative technologist, Ruth Jones, who will record and mix the voices of all participants together, combining audio and visuals collected throughout the project to create a beautiful film.
Sessions began in early February and will continue until the end of March. Span Arts are already receiving great feedback from those involved and will be measuring participant wellbeing throughout the project to determine whether this sort of intervention can have short and long-term health benefits.
The whole project will culminate in a community singing event at the end of March where participants, people from the wider community and local choirs will have the opportunity to hear Remote Choir’s debut song. They will also be able to learn the different parts of the song so that they can join in and amplify the voices of the Remote Choir’s participants.
The final film will premiere at Wales’ only A Capella voice festival in May 2018 navf.co.uk and will be freely available and shareable online after this event.