VOICES IN harmony

The sound of singing is ringing through halls around the Mornington Peninsula as more people seek social connection through community choirs after years of COVID-related withdrawal. Singing together has long been recognised as a way to facilitate social bonding, but it is also known for improving mental health and happiness. The musical director and conductor of Vox Peninsula, Jill Linley, said singing together had many health benefits and gave singers a social outlet some might otherwise not have. “It’s great for the soul, and people get so much joy out of it – plus we perform in the community so there’s a whole community benefit,” she said.

Vox Peninsula began in early 2023 when a group of musicians decided to form a community choir. “The aim was to become a four-part (soprano, alto, tenor and bass – SATB) choir with high standards, singing challenging choral music by classical and modern composers,” she said. A committee was formed, business matters set in place, a venue arranged, and musical friends contacted, and by May Vox Peninsula began rehearsals in a Mount Eliza hall with about 30 members.

Heather Wickes is the resident accompanist and Jill said plans were underway for a series of performances in 2024, beginning with a concert of classical choral favourites in May and ending with two special Christmas presentations in November and December. “Singing together is a joyous, positive experience, and singing challenging music in a mixed voice four-part choir provides extra mental stimulation,” she said. “Even singers who are not skilled in music reading find that being part of a group of experienced choristers quickly develops their music skills and increases their enjoyment and satisfaction.”

One of the largest community choirs in Australia, Pop Choir, also has a peninsula presence through its singing group in Mornington. Last year, the choir recorded its first single, Windows with Smiles, which was released in October 2023 to streaming platforms, with the hopes of also raising awareness for the Lighthouse Foundation’s Youth Homelessness mission. Co-founder Darryl Moulton said the Mornington Tuesday groups were the most recent Pop Choir addition and within four weeks of starting last year demand was so high a larger location had to be found. “We relocated from a small venue to the Peninsula Community Theatre in order to fit everyone in. Mornington is a tight knit community, and we know people in the area are always looking for interesting things to do. It’s been a really lovely social thing for people in the area to get involved in,” he said.

Mornington member Cathy Mitchell, 61, who joined Pop Choir when it first opened, said “and thank goodness it did. I just love it”. “It has brought so much sunshine to my life. I was looking for something just for me, something to make me happy and something for me to look forward to. My husband said go for it. He sees how happy it makes me. I just love to sing,” she said. Cathy said the singing had improved her breathing and been a great form of therapy after recent surgery for a tumour on her pulmonary artery. “Each week I attend with my two girlfriends Leanne and Lindy and a whole lot of gorgeous people in Mornington where we just sing, dance and laugh – usually because Sharon says something funny – and walk away feeling fabulous and ready for the week,” she said.

Another community choir, Mornington Peninsula Chorale, is also a SATB choir and was formed in 1979 as the Frankston Continuing Choir, before formally becoming the Mornington Peninsula Chorale in the 1990s. The choir performs with the Frankston Symphony Orchestra and on its own, singing a variety of genres. The chorale has worked alongside the MSO Chorus and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, performing the Messiah in December 2022.

The Mornington Peninsula Chorale is a community choir and auditions are not required. To become a member, membership of the Frankston Music Society is required, but rehearsals are held in Mount Eliza.

Photo: Supplied.


Peninsula Essence – February 2024