Fanshawe Chorus London

In the months after my father died, I was lost.

I was 25. He had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack that came on without warning. Even now, four years later, I remember every moment of that day with such clarity. The missed calls on my phone. The faltering words from well-meaning neighbours. My sister’s sobs in the emergency room.

What I can’t remember so well are the hazy and horrible weeks that followed, when grief settled over me like a fog. It blurred the lines of everyday life, trapping me in the thick gloom of my own despairing thoughts. I tried desperately to escape myself – to lose myself in other people, in work, in long nights of restless sleep. Everything felt meaningless. As being alone got harder, I started looking for ways to escape my house in the evenings.

I liked to sing, so I looked up a local choir and booked an audition. Seven days later I walked into my first rehearsal with Fanshawe Chorus London. The choir was learning a fugue, I remember – a complicated type of choral music that tosses a melodic theme back and forth between vocal parts. I sat in the back row of the altos and tried my best to keep up. I let the voices of the group wash over me, sometimes in harmony, sometimes disjointed and discordant. And during those two hours, enveloped in the layers of that music, I finally found what I had been looking for all along.

Quiet.

The painful thoughts that kept me up at night were silent. The fearful anxiety was gone. I was just a voice, in a room full of other voices, working together to produce something beautiful.

The quiet was such a relief that I burst into tears on my way home.

Some people find peace in yoga. Some find it in sunsets or cups of tea. I found it in the difficult, complex, beautiful workings of 19th-century choral music – music that I never would have had the chance to sing without an organization like Fanshawe Chorus London.

Fanshawe Chorus London keeps the great works alive. We sing with incredible professional orchestral musicians and classically trained soloists, and we’re the only group in London that does so. All of that costs money, and although we sell tickets and raise funds, our organization is always struggling to keep up.

But we take on work that nobody else does. We sing music that heals – that opens the mind to new and beautiful possibilities. After months of emptiness and hopelessness, that music finally made me feel that something was meaningful again.

I still miss my dad. I always will. But years later, at my weekly choir rehearsal, I still leave the rest of my life at the door. I breathe in and breathe out; I let the music fill my ears and my heart. And then I help to make something meaningful, something beautiful, for the next person who wanders into rehearsal in search of peace.

- Sarah

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