Howard and Gemma Francis, founders of The BIG Sing choirs which celebrate their 10th anniversary this year, believe that community choirs can play a pivotal role in reconnecting people across Kent during the Covid recovery.
There were over 1000 people across the UK taking part in their choirs pre-lockdown, and the Kent choirs have started again in Rochester and Swanley.
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.”
Here is a short link which is sent out to new choir members, in which Gemma and Howard introduce us to the BIG Sing world:
In addition to The BIG Sing, four years ago the couple founded The BIG Sing SOUL – a charity that aims to help people in the community who are physically unable to travel to the venues where the choirs rehearse and perform. Through the work of the charity, they have supported schools, nurseries, disabled groups, care homes, and other vulnerable communities.