Howard and Gemma Francis, former Essex residents and the founders of The BIG Sing which began life in Witham, believe that community choirs can play a pivotal role in reconnecting people across Essex during the Covid recovery as restrictions on choirs began to ease last week.
There were over 1000 people across the UK taking part in their choirs pre-lockdown and the Essex choirs have started again (from w/c 19 July) in Maldon, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Witham and Rayleigh, as well as the Essex Gospel Choir.
Gemma says, “We all know that many people across the UK have felt isolated and have found the past 18 months a significant challenge to their mental health. We have seen that by gathering together, singing together and sharing life together we have been able to build deep bonds that have provided far more worth than simply a singing group. We have seen people find hope and connection in the midst of real suffering.”
The BIG Sing have performed with big name artists such as Ellie Goulding, London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) and Leona Lewis, and are planning to use the end of Covid restrictions as an opportunity to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Howard and Gemma now have choirs in Essex, Kent and Warwickshire and are keen to emphasise that singing is for all cultures, backgrounds, race, and ages including The BIG Sing Community Choirs (for everyone aged 12+ years), TINY Sing (for babies & tots 0-4years), and LITTLE Sing (primary school music workshops for kids ages 5-11years).
Before establishing The BIG Sing, songwriter, pianist, arranger and singer Howard Francis wrote many of the London Community Gospel Choir hits and he also tours regularly with artists such as Alexander O’Neal and Mica Paris, and has performed with Westlife, Blue, Will Young, Gloria Gaynor, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Alesha Dixon and Des’ree.
Howard comments, “Music has the power to unite people across communities. Our choirs reach out to all ages – babies, kids, teens, adults, and grandparents – and singing has helped our members overcome depression, isolation, loneliness, illness and provided new friendships and a real sense of community. We are more than just a choir, we are a family.”