Pocklington choir Forgotten Voices seeks new members for lockdown sessions

Online session: Forgotten Voices director Sam Dunkley hosts a remote rehearsal with members

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s community choir, Forgotten Voices, is reaching out for new members “at a time when some people might need it the most”.

A regular participant in the National Street Choirs Festival, the choir celebrated its tenth anniversary last year and has maintained momentum in lockdown by helping members stay connected and socially engaged through moving rehearsals online.

Forgotten Voices was set up ten years ago, under the directorship of Sam Dunkley, with the aim of helping people rediscover the joys of singing in a friendly, sociable setting. 

The group usually meets at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) on Tuesday evenings, from 7pm to 9pm, to rehearse songs from a wide range of genres, such as pop, folk, classical and musical theatre.

However, the pandemic has forced Dunkley to move rehearsals online, and while members say they miss their face-to-face sessions, their remote gatherings are not only morale boosting but also help to combat social isolation at this time.  

Retired teacher Jane Smith, of Pocklington, joined Forgotten Voices at the very start, spurred on by there being no audition and wanting to find a way to “switch off for a couple of hours”. 

Despite missing performing in person and the chance to socialise with everyone, Jane believes the online rehearsals have been good for her mental wellbeing. “Over the years, I’ve made good friends through the choir. I’ve learnt a lot from Sam and he always manages to make us laugh. I love it when we’ve worked on a song and then all the parts come together,” she says. 

Forgotten Voices in pre-pandemic days

“It’s so uplifting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I love it when we can perform for and with other people, whether it’s at a summer fair, a wedding, on stage at the arts centre or around the country as part of the National Street Choirs Festival. It’s an absolute joy.”

Reflecting on the past year, Jane says: “I miss being able to hear everybody else’s voices, being in the same room, with all the parts resounding around us. I miss being able to socialise, have a chat and a cup of tea. I miss having a performance to work towards – and performing.

“On the other hand, it’s been very good for morale, to see friends ‘virtually’ every week, have a little chat and a laugh, as well as singing some old favourites and learning some new songs. 

“I think it’s been good for our mental health, at a time when so many of us are isolated from each other.”

Retired teacher Pamela Quarmby, of Stamford Bridge, joined Forgotten Voices a decade ago for her love of singing. “I’ve always enjoyed being a part of the choir, especially being able to sing alto parts and meeting other members,” she says. “While I miss seeing the friends I’ve made, and hearing each other sing, I would encourage others to come and join us – we are like a family.”

At present, the Forgotten Voices community choir meets online every Tuesday, from 7pm to 8pm, with no audition necessary. To find out more and to join a virtual rehearsal, contact Sam Dunkley at info@performingartsetc.co.uk or send a message via the Facebook page, @ForgottenVoicesCommunityChoir.