A CHAT WITH DIRECTOR PAUL ROBERTS
How did the concept of Everybody Sings get started?
After having sung in a community-based choir back in the UK, my wife Mel looked around for something similar when we moved to New Zealand; but she couldn’t find anything she really liked. One day, she just announced, “We’re going to set up our own choir” – note the we, rather than ‘I’! I’d never even contemplated singing in a choir, but I was roped in! That was the beginning of Stonefields choir, in 2012.
We soon realised that there was a real need for singing communities, so in 2017 we decided to set up ‘Everybody Sings’ as a business and expand from there. We’ve currently got eight choirs in Auckland – including a children’s choir – and one in Tauranga. And if we find the right choir leaders, we’re open to the possibility of expanding further locally, nationally or internationally.
You weren’t a singer when you started – what’s kept you going with it?
On day one, it struck me that we were a group of people who didn’t know each other, and that very first day we were singing in harmony. It was spectacular! I really love the people – and hearing how joining one of our groups has made a massive difference to them. Sometimes it’s the first thing they’ve done for themselves, or for others it’s a chance for couples to share an activity together!
But the story I hear most frequently is, “When I come to choir, everything I’ve been dealing with in the week just melts away – I get to just focus on singing together with like-minded people.”
What do you love about what you do?
We do a lot of work for charities, and every Christmas, people in our choirs give their time to raise money for the Auckland City Mission. The first year, we were amazed to raise a few hundred dollars by busking. That’s now expanded to where we have a big mass-choir performance where all of our singers get together, and we busk as well. Last year we made $25,000, and we’re looking to top that in 2021.
What are some of the benefits of singing?
There’s a lot of research around the health and wellness benefits of singing and the endorphin release from that … but also, joining a choir has a number of additional advantages. It boosts your confidence in the same sort of way that Toastmasters does – you learn to stand on stage in front of an audience – but it’s also a team sport! So you’re surrounded by people who are there to support you through that journey.
What’s unique about this particular initiative?
We actually look to improve people’s ability to sing. Although we’re a community-based choir (and not auditioned), our choir leaders are trained in making us sound really good. We take anybody and everybody, and through training and techniques, our choirs end up sounding phenomenal. That means that people are not just learning songs; they’re learning how to sing. We’re all learning a new skill, or improving the skills we already had.
Another thing that makes us unique is our broad selection of music – from rock and pop right through to classical, Pasifika, gospel … and the scale of our choirs is unique. We’ve got about 400 members across all our choirs in Auckland – which means that, when combined, we’ve got that scale and presence that others don’t have. We also have the opportunity to sing at lots of events!