Striking a chord

SINGING is good for the soul, as Peter Lehner will attest.

Mr Lehner is choir director of the Winsome Voices, a choir of people who are homeless or disadvantaged.

For Mr Lehner, the Winsome Hotel was his watering hole whenever he found himself in Lismore.

But when he came back to the area this year he found the pub closed and offering accommodation for the homeless and disadvantaged, despite the strong concerns of neighbours.

“I thought what a wonderful opportunity to educate people about those who are homeless and disadvantaged,” he said.

The choir began singing together just four weeks ago and are already planning a public concert.

“I started this choir, and now they’re like instant family, which is really beautiful,” Mr Lehner said.

Mr Lehner has already seen the benefits of many singing as one, having led the Sydney Street Choir since 2003.

“It’s like exercise, it encourages deep breathing and releases serotonin,” he said.

“And with the Sydney choir, once they started coming every week they were ready for support and after about a month they got housing.”

For Gillian Whalley, the Winsome Voices choir is a ‘constructive rowdiness’ for her and her three daughters.

“It’s pretty good, and it’s somewhere to go with the kids,” she said.

Even 10-month-old Emily-Jane Whalley got into the swing of things.

“This little one can belt out a chord,” Ms Whalley laughed.

“She’s even been known to play the drums on the empty milk tins.”

Mr Lehner said the group had nine core members, and others joined the group from week to week.

“Some people just can’t come here every week,” he said.

But Ray Parry wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“I’ve been doing stuff with the Hearing Voices choir too, but this choir takes you out of your comfort zone,” he said.

With preparations for their performance at the Star Court Theatre on August 4 well under way, Jean Currie is building up her confidence at rehearsals before singing in front of everyone.

“I’m singing a song of my own,” she said.

“This choir has done heaps for me, it’s building me up.”

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