How do you bring people together in six isolated rural parishes? The answer - you start a community choir and gen up on your ABBA lyrics, that’s how. 

This idea was the brainchild of the Reverend Steve Holt, Vicar of the Carr Dyke Group of Parishes. This benefice covers the six rural communities of Billinghay, Martin, North Kyme, South Kyme, Timberland and Walcott, located close to Sleaford in the south of the county.

In realising the dream, Steve recruited Sandra Tomley, who plays the organ for five out of the six churches, to lead the choir and Ray Smith as technical support.

The choir was originally going to be named as ‘Carr Dyke Can’t Sing Choir’ as it sought to engage everyone who may think they can’t sing, have been told they can’t sing or felt not quite good enough to be in a choir. However, the name was changed to the ‘Carr Dyke Community Choir’ as that may appeal more broadly to a range of vocal talents.

To rally the would be singers they advertised on their website and on social media and in the parish news magazine, pew sheets and on posters.

Their first rehearsal was due to take place at St Michael's Community Hall in Billinghay at the end of September. Preliminary enquiries indicated were around 50-60 people had expressed an interest, so they thought that maybe half would turn up. 

The weather was wet and miserable but despite that 52 people went along and they rocked the classics - ABBA, Queen, Robbie Williams, and John Denver. 

Revd. Steve Holt said: “We were amazed on the night that so many people had come along. Our part of Lincolnshire is quite isolated, so we wanted to do something that would bring people together in the spirit of fun and friendship and I think we did it! Some of our choir members come to church, but many do not, but what is important is that the church is reaching out into our community giving people an opportunity to do something joyful and to make new friends.”

“As Conductor I am absolutely thrilled with how it’s turned out.” said Sandra. “The community hall was buzzing on the night and we have received some lovely feedback.   People have said they want to sing more often, so we are going to organise to do that. It’s wonderful that we have been able to bring alive such a strong sense of community fellowship and to spread joy and happiness.”

So, what are the views of our new choir members after the first night? Here’s just two responses received. From Nikki, “I enjoyed it so much and was such a lovely hour of ‘me’ time, time to enjoy singing.”, and from Amy “I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the first rehearsal. It was such a warm, friendly atmosphere. There was no pressure or expectations, and everyone left smiling. Thank you.”

What are the benefits of singing in a choir? In an article by a Researcher in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford there are both health and psychological benefits to be gained from singing. These include improvements in breathing, posture and muscle tension as well as to a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing. 

In summing up Reverend Steve quotes a passage from Psalm 94 from the Bible: ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise’ and they certainly did that and more!