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Date Posted: 25-09-2018

A Choir set up just six years ago, to support cancer patients and cancer survivors in a fun, positive, inspirational and diversionary way, is mere weeks away from the once in a lifetime experience of appearing in one of the world’s most iconic concert venues – the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Founded in June 2012, membership of Bolton Cancer Voices is open to anyone, over eighteen years old, who has received a cancer diagnosis of any type, at any time: this being their only criterion for membership. Not only does the Choir bring people together to share their love of singing, it offers an unusual form of support for those going through treatment, moving forward following completion of treatment or living with cancer as a chronic condition.

Karen Elliott – Founder & Chair of Bolton Cancer Voices said: –
‘The benefits of singing in a Choir are increasingly recognized as being many and varied and can impact on physical, mental and emotional well-being; not to mention the social benefits of coming together to sing.

When we surveyed our membership, 80% of respondents reported things like improved breathing, increased energy levels, a more positive outlook and an increased sense of well-being: an added, probably unexpected, outcome of doing something they love and get immense pleasure from.’

After launching with just sixteen members, the Choir currently has around forty members, who rehearse weekly and enjoy a full programme of appearances and activities. Though cancer brings the Choir together they do not allow it to define them or restrict their dreams and aspirations: their focus is on the joy of singing; sharing fun experiences that challenge or inspire and entertaining others.

Until this point their highlights have included an annual ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ concert, to which they have welcomed guest bands – Besseso’th’ Barn Band and the Greater Manchester Police Band; recording a CD; being featured on BBC Northwest Tonight; appearing at Manchester Cathedral in the ‘Christmas Celebration’ of Greater Manchester Police and their 5th Birthday concert with guests – Salford Symphony Orchestra and Affetside Choir. Now they are set to be one of a handful of Choirs from the North West and one of only four mixed Choirs out of the sixty participating, who will combine to form a 1,350 strong Choir in the ‘Festival of Brass and Voices’, on Saturday 3rd November.

Raising money for Cancer Research UK, the ‘Festival of Brass and Voices’ will see Choirs from across the United Kingdom and beyond, come together with two Brass Bands of outstanding international repute – The Cory Band and Grimethorpe Colliery Band: a musical extravaganza, which has been taking place every three years for almost two decades.

Karen said: –
‘Everyone is so excited about the prospect of taking part in such a large-scale and prestigious event. This is a huge privilege for us that will definitely take us to the next level in terms of technical ability, performance skills and confidence.

Having the opportunity to perform with so many other passionate and talented singers is an awesome experience in itself, but to be doing this on such an iconic, world renowned stage – well who would have thought it possible!

For us, there really couldn’t be a more pertinent event to be a part of, as cancer research in the broadest sense has saved, extended or improved the quality of life of every one of our members. Bolton Cancer Voices symbolizes the enormous strides achieved by cancer research through the decades, right across the cancer pathway from diagnosis to survivorship. With current statistics showing that 1 in 2 of us born after 1960, will ultimately receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in life, hopefully the Choir sends a clear message to anyone whose life is touched by this disease, that there is life with and beyond cancer.

I can’t even begin to find the words to tell you how enormously proud we are of our members; they have all worked so hard for this: it will be quite an emotional moment when we see so many of them at the Royal Albert Hall. The experience will stay with them for ever!’

When Choir members were asked what appearing at the Royal Albert Hall meant to them, these were just some of the responses received: –
• We have come so far as a Choir and we are taking those with us who can’t be there in person. – Lynne
• What a privilege to be singing with massed voices, in such a wonderful place. – Anon
• Because I love music so much, a life-long ambition was to visit the Royal Albert Hall; so to actually appear there, in concert, has made my life complete. – Jean
• Who would have thought having cancer could result in singing The Hallelujah Chorus, at the Royal Albert Hall! WOW! Good things do happen! – Anon
• This has been something so positive, at a very difficult time in my life. Thank you. – Anon
• Huge gratitude and extreme excitement, at being given the once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in such a wonderful event. It is very hard to put my feelings into words, as I get overwhelmed every time I think about it! – Susan
• Living with cancer can be tough some days: this is WONDERFUL! – Anon
• I can’t put in to words how I feel, because I’ll cry: tears of pure joy! – Anon

However, amid all the excitement being generated by their forthcoming appearance, Officials of the Choir have faced the onerous task of generating an extra £13,715 to cover costs associated with the event; this being in addition to raising their annual running costs of around £7,000: because remarkably for this day and age, membership of Bolton Cancer Voices is free!

Karen said: –
‘People have already paid too high a price, when they receive a cancer diagnosis: so from the outset this has been fundamental to our ethos, as financial worries can be one of the hidden effects of cancer and we didn’t want to create a barrier to people participating in something that may prove beneficial to them.

No one knows better than our members that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be life-changing but being part of Bolton Cancer Voices can be life-affirming. Our members are truly amazing: they seize the day and live life to the full no matter what their story. We owe it to them to keep fresh, exciting and challenging opportunities on the horizon, so everyone has something positive to focus on; no matter what else may be happening in their life.

This by far, is our most ambitious and costly undertaking to date: but to us no price can be put on the benefits our members derive from their involvement in the Choir.’
Bolton Cancer Voices is now only £4,000 off their target. You can follow their amazing story on Facebook: – https://en-gb.facebook.com/BoltonCancervoices/ and support them with a donation via their Just Giving page: – https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bolton-cancervoices