Choirs Special: Gilly Smith talks to The Dulcetones 

Sarah:  I run an A Cappella choir called The Dulcetones, we sing vintage-inspired classic tunes and unusual treats covering lots of different styles and eras from ‘60s girl groups to 90s rave. I am affectionately entitled ‘the twisted choir starter’. There’s no choir mistress round here!

It was originally a Middle Street primary school PTA friendship-building experiment with arrangements of groovy songs. We did that for a year or two until the funding ran out, as so often happens with brilliant things in education, so I decided to take it on as my own baby, cover it in leopard print and rebrand as The Ducletones. We’ve been having musical adventures together ever since. 

My mum insists that I was singing before I could talk, and I believe her. I’m a session singer, I teach vocals and I’ve toured with various bands including one called Derriere, but Dulcetonia is where I live. Choir has definitely got me through some tough times, and that’s a pretty common theme… Thursday evenings are magic.  It’s that protected time. So many of us are just completely overwhelmed with work and responsibilities and commitments and so on, and carving out time that is for you when you get to connect with your choir fam is  one of the most meaningful things you can do. No matter what else is going on in your life, you know that you can come to choir – prepared or otherwise – and blast off your life cobwebs. It’s well documented that the act of singing is brilliant for your mental and physical health, but it really takes it to another level when you’re doing it with a group of other people.  You’re literally physically vibrating at beautiful harmonic frequencies and there’s nothing quite like it on the world. 

Amanda: Six years ago, almost to the day, I had just had a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I was in a very, very dark place at the time, but my daughter heard about the choir and persuaded me to join. I felt like I had become a part of a new family, and it really did restore my confidence. Sarah made me feel super welcome, and everybody was amazing. It was really hard to actually walk in here at that time because I was in such a bad place, but I’ve now made friends for life. I’ve been part of choirs before and music was always a massive part of my life, and I knew that it was something that I needed to kind of revisit. I’d been meaning to do it for a long time, but Sarah takes you as you are and I didn’t need to perform in anyway. I didn’t need to be something that I wasn’t. I could turn up and just feel really welcome and yeah, just be me. Sometimes you cry with them afterwards, and just…  Yeah, it’s just amazing.

Sally: Thursdays are my favourite day of the week I’ve never been happier since joining this choir 12 years ago.  Sarah is an ultimate legend; basically you get two for the price of one with her – you get a stand-up comedian and you get the choir.  You make new friends and you get to put yourself out of your comfort zone doing shows. It’s just the best decision I ever made. 

I had only ever sung in the car or the shower before. I never knew what to do with my voice, even though I knew I could sing. It’s not amazing, but I can sing.  I have a voice, and this has enabled me to finally use it. I was 32 before I found my hobby, so yeah it was a long time coming! 

Sara: Choir really has changed my life. I’m 65 now, so I feel like one of the oldest ones here but I’ve always loved singing.  I sang in another choir before but this is just something else. Sarah‘s energy is incredible and she’s such a brilliant singer, and the people here are just wonderful; they even sang at my 60th birthday.  One of my favourite moments in the nine years I’ve been coming was performing David Bowie songs at the Spiegeltent. I love a bit of David Bowie.

Deborah: What’s really changed my life is the community feeling. When you’ve had a really hard week and you feel you can’t do anything or you don’t want to be with anybody, you just feel welcome. The lovely chemicals that are in my body and the joy is incredible.  I don’t even have to sing very well because when you do it amongst people it’s just joyful.  That moment of pause in a really busy life is wonderful. It’s just mine. 

“An Evening With The Ducletones” is on Thursday 21st July at Wagner Hall.  

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