Local Carers Voice Their Lockdown Experiences
Members of Sing Viva – the two Derbyshire carers’ choirs set up by Sinfonia Viva, the East Midlands’ professional orchestra – have released an uplifting song that reflects experiences and feelings during lockdown.
‘United in Song (Music Brings Us Joy) has been written by the choir members and Viva composer James Redwood. They performed and videoed it at home and have
been accompanied by a Viva ensemble. It is now available online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIWEbG68_BU as part of Sinfonia Viva’s fundraising campaign to ensure the future of Sing Viva.
The lockdown anthem’s lyrics highlight how important group singing sessions have been during lockdown when vulnerable family members had to shield to protect them from Covid-19.
Prior to lockdown, the Sing Viva choirs met monthly at venues in Derby and Chesterfield - bringing together people who care for relatives and friends and, since
March, they have met up weekly via Zoom.
Sinfonia Viva is currently running an appeal to ensure the long-term future of Sing Viva. Thanks to a benefactor, donations up to £1,800 will be matched pound for pound and the Orchestra is aiming to raise £3,600 by New Year’s Day 2021.
Derby mum Rae Henshaw joined Sing Viva in 2017. She explained: “The carers choir came into my life at just the right time.
“Sadly, we found out that our daughter had Inflammatory Bowel Disease amongst other conditions, which is a life-long chronic auto-immune condition with no cure.
“Our lives have since revolved around clinic appointments, treatments, tests and keeping her well. Some days my head just wants to explode with it all and having
Sing Viva in our lives is a calming force when times are tough.
“Lockdown was hard for so many people. We were not able to leave the house for months but our lives were made much easier by having the weekly support of the Sing Viva family. Just knowing that, on a Tuesday, I could have a giggle and a sing gave me a focus and lifted my spirits.
“Working with James to write United in Song felt like a therapy session. It was the chance to say what we felt, what was in our heads and how lockdown made us feel.
“Having our song to think about when times were tough gave me a focus and distraction from what was happening elsewhere. I was able to cope better with
what was happening because I had an outlet for my feelings and something good to work towards.”
Fellow choir member Melanie Pierson added: “My husband and I joined Sing Viva when we were caring for both my disabled elderly mother and Andy’s brother who came to live with us while he was being treated for an aggressive form of cancer.
“Attending the choir sessions gave us something for ourselves and much-needed distance from our responsibilities. It released so many feel good hormones and
surrounded us with happy people and happy music which was a fabulous tonic.
“During lockdown, we’ve really appreciated the weekly choir sessions. The musical challenges and real value have been a welcome distraction from family worries and Covid anxieties and it is great to share something with other like-minded folk.”
Marianne Barraclough is Sinfonia Viva’s deputy chief executive in charge of programming and explained that Sing Viva was set up in Derby and Chesterfield to
give carers a well-deserved break and enjoy a group activity in a friendly and supportive environment.
She said: “Having composed, rehearsed and recorded United in Song in early Autumn, it is pertinent that we now releasing the video mid-way through the second
lockdown when we hopefully better appreciate the damage that isolation and anxiety can have on people’s health and mental well-being.
“Caring for a loved one with long term disability, illness or dependency issues can be extremely difficult. Isolation and loneliness are common for carers who often find themselves caring for over 50 hours a week in an unpaid role and behind closed doors.
“Indeed, recent research by Carers UK has found that 40% of unpaid carers have not had a break in over a year whilst 25% have not received a single day away from caring in over five years. Covid-19 and lockdown has only added to the pressures.
“Our carers choir, Sing Viva, therefore offers a vital support network – enabling carers to enjoy singing and make friends in a safe space.
“Although it is not the same to sing at home in front of a computer, everyone has enjoyed being part of this collective music making and particularly working with
James Redwood on the lockdown anthem.
“We are extremely proud of ‘United in Song’ which I hope will help to lift everyone’s spirits and even encourage other local people who have caring responsibilities to come and join us.”
Supporters of Sinfonia Viva’s fundraising campaign include the Orchestra’s patrons – the Kanneh-Mason family – some of whom have recently featured in high-profile performances including the BBC Children in Need official song and on television’s ‘Strictly’.
The family said: “As Patrons of Sinfonia Viva, we are delighted to support their match funding campaign to keep the Sing Viva Carers Choirs singing.
“During these challenging times, there is more pressure than ever on carers within our community. Taking time out each week to do something that makes us happy is so important for health and wellbeing. As a family that enjoys playing music together, this is something close to our hearts.
“Every pound pledged to the Sing Viva campaign will be doubled so let’s keep the virtual choirs singing in the hope that, one day, they will soon be able to sing again in person.”
For more information about Sing Viva and how you can support its future please visit