Singing has a huge power to unite and uplift people, and the Paul Sartori (Hospice at Home) Community Choir has made the most out of that. Founded in April 2022, as Wales started to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the choir’s aim was always to use singing to connect members of the community, and to increase wellbeing, confidence, and self-esteem.
Funding, with thanks to the National Lottery Players, has enabled the Community Choir to establish itself, to recruit new members and to become self-sustaining. It has raised the profile and £1000’s for the local charity, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home. Funded initially by The Community Changemakers Fund, its first rehearsal in 2022 (based at Vision Arts in Haverfordwest) welcomed 23 local people.
Since then, they have engaged with 117 and have around 80 on its database. Members of the choir are those that have either a direct connection with the charity, but also include the general public.
Since forming, the choir has moved venue twice to accommodate its growth. Rehearsals are now held
at the Merlin Theatre in Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest.
“The community have really engaged with it. There is a great demand for a friendly, fun choir and people want it to continue,” said Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, Grant Development Officer and one of the organisers of the Paul Sartori Community Choir, Judith Williams, adding that in the past year the choir has over doubled in size, “We now have an average of well over 50 members per week attending our rehearsals.”
Rehearsals are held weekly on a Thursday night (6-8pm), at the Merlin Theatre, Pembrokeshire College,
Haverfordwest. The choir has helped many people to form new friendships and give people a sense
of belonging, as is highlighted in these quotes from choir members:
“Fantastic group from all walks of life united by the love of singing and music, with a great
community spirit. It is serious fun!”
“Being a member of the Paul Sartori Community Choir for me personally has several benefits.
I look forward to every rehearsal and attending the varied fund-raising concerts, singing at a
local ferry port, a village coastal pub and outside local supermarkets. I also enjoy the
opportunity to sing with other groups, such as Milford Haven Town Band and Neyland Ladies
Choir to fund raise for such a brilliant and caring charity.”
“I joined the choir in January 2023 after spending many months feeling isolated at home after
working all day. I chose the Paul Sartori Community Choir as my father-in-law received end of
life care from the wonderful team and it felt right to give a little back! I absolutely love the
friendly welcome each week. I’ve made lovely friends, taken part in concerts, and social
evenings, met up with friends outside of choir evenings and generally feel a whole lot better!”
“Ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for the whole community was important to us and for everyone to be able to enjoy the benefits of singing and to share these in an empathetic setting,” said Judith. No previous musical experience is needed to get involved: help is provided for anyone new to reading music. “It is a very supportive atmosphere, and we really encourage the social aspect of it as well,” said Judith. “We always stop for a cuppa and a biscuit halfway through our rehearsal, and we encourage any
opportunity to socialise.” During the summer they got together for an evening meal and are planning their Christmas get together already!
The choir has been kept busy over the past year. They have participated in the “Night of 100 Voices”
concert at Follies Theatre, Folly Farm in January performing with the Vision Arts Show Choir and
Pembroke & District Male Voice Choir; were invited, as special guests, to take part in a Spring Concert
with Milford Haven Town Band in March; and celebrated their first anniversary in April with a buffet
and a professional photography session.
They also sang outside Morrisons in Haverfordwest in May and took part in a Paul Sartori fundraising event at the Old Point House in Angle on Saturday May 27. In July, the choir attended the Soroptimists fundraising lunch for Paul Sartori; had their own lunchtime concert at St Mary’s Church in Haverfordwest on 22nd July and organised an Evening Concert with Neyland Ladies Choir at the Merlin Theatre, Pembrokeshire College on 30th September.
The choir now has its own clear identity: members wear choir-branded fleeces (which have been purchased by choir members); the sunflower badge (a symbol of the
hospice movement) and have recently purchased choir; branded polo shirts (which were funded by the National Lottery and the Changemakers Fund). They even have
their own logo!
“We have been overwhelmed with support for the choir, a local business, Sigma Display, even funded the production of an a-frame advertising board for us to take to events – this goes everywhere we go now. We are also really lucky that Pembrokeshire College are, from the end of the National Lottery funding, offering us the rehearsal venue free of charge which will reduce our costs,” added Judith.
Due to the choir’s growth, a team of people are now involved with its organisation, including Judith; Amanda Elmes, who also works for Paul Sartori and Mark Heron, who is the Musical Director (The Paul Sartori Community Coordination Team). There is a lot needed to organise a choir of this size – regular updates are sent out via email, there is a Choir WhatsApp group, a Choir Social WhatsApp group, as well as a SPOND group, which manages the choir’s busy events schedule.
Mark, the Choir Director, is also a local teacher, and works for the Pembrokeshire Music Service – he is
also a Paul Sartori volunteer. Mark has a special association with the charity, as he was baptised by
Father Paul Sartori himself (the inspiration for the charity). This makes his connection with the Paul
Sartori Community Choir even more special. The choir has also appointed existing members to help
manage the growing choir – each section now has a Volunteer Pastoral Leader to help welcome new
members and act as a point of reference for queries. The choir has its own Volunteer Music Librarian
who distributes music to new and existing members.
“I personally cannot believe how much the choir has taken off. Its growth inAmanda Elmes, Choir Reception Administrator
size and confidence since we first started back in April last year. I do not think for one minute
any of us visualised this happening, we have just gone from strength to strength. Sometimes after a long day at work, going to the Choir on a Thursday evening is the last thing I actually feel like doing, but I make myself go. By the time we have finished at 8pm, I am no longer feeling tired and I leave feeling great! Singing releases ‘feel good’ hormones, it is refreshing and a fun place to be! We are continually told in work to be aware of self-care – this is my self-care! I am really proud to be part of the Paul Sartori Community Choir, and to be a part of the Choir Coordination Team.”
“Going forward, we are open to new members, particularly tenors and basses and we will continue to
have fun and enjoy singing. We’ll add to our growing repertoire and keep performing. It really is a fun
choir, with such a lovely bunch of people involved. We all hope it will continue for many years to
come!” added Judith.
The choir’s future performances include:
- Busking at the Haverfoodfest, Haverfordwest on Saturday 2nd December (daytime)
- Christmas Concert with Milford Haven Town Band on Sunday 3rd December (evening)
- Carol Singing outside Tesco, Haverfordwest on Saturday 9th December (11am – 1pm)
- A special “Light up a Life”, memorial concert in conjunction with other local performers
including Haverfordwest Male Voice Choir at St Davids Cathedral on Saturday 27th January
2024 (more information: Light up a Life Concert – Paul Sartori)
- And returning to St Mary’s Church, Haverfordwest on Saturday 20th July 2024 for a Lunchtime
A few videos of the Paul Sartori Community Choir can be accessed via the charity’s you tube channel: Paul Sartori
Community Choir – YouTube.
The Paul Sartori Community Choir Coordination Team (from left to right), Amanda Elmes, Mark Heron and
Judith Williams wearing the new branded choir polo shirts.
With huge thanks to the National Lottery Players for supporting the Paul Sartori Community Choir!
For further information, please contact Judith Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 01437