“Depression an anxiety cause me to drop interests and friendships because I never have the energy to pursue them, and the way my head works suggests to me that I’m rubbish and not worth spending time with, so it’s easy to become isolated and without interest in anything. Music was one of the things that fell by the wayside when I got ill and having been musical all my life this was a massive loss to me. Because of this, Mustard Seed Singers are a complete lifeline for me. It’s somewhere I can go when I can’t manage anything else.Even when it’s hard to get out, choir is easy because I never have to put on a ‘face’ or an act for choir and everyone accepts me for who I am and how I’m doing on any given day.They don’t care if my hair is greasy or my clothes are ratty. If I’m struggling, they understand. If I cry, I’m offered a tissue and a hug and noone is offended if I want to be lift alone. It gives me a place to be myself even when I hate myself and it’s given me back music and a sense of purpose for at least an hour a week. I can’t even begin to express how much choir means to be because of that.” (From a choir member, 2016)
“The group initially gave me a reason to get out of the house once a week and somewhere to walk to. I feel it has created a great incentive in my life and the warm, friendly nature of all the other members has cheered me up immensely. I have even made some friends!”
“It helps me to structure my week, to have something to keep going for. I enjoy meeting all types of people. It has been very good to meet new people who have experiences similar to my own. If I feel I might have a panic attack, I know how to breathe properly, which helps. I would have very little reason to leave the house if I wasn’t doing choirs.”
“I have bipolar disorder. When I am depressed, singing in the group and coming together with other people lifts my mood and gives me something positive and productive to focus on. When I am manic, singing is something I can channel my extra energy into and express my enthusiasm for life through. The choir provides structure and purpose in an otherwise sometimes empty life.”
“I do not feel I am a good singer and have little confidence in my singing, but it is something I have always wished I could have done well. I feel comfortable that the group is not critical and doesn’t make demands. I need to get out of the house more and to engage socially with people, because I do not feel judged, I am learning to listen to what I should be singing and to concentrate more.”
Reviews from local press:
” Popular local singing group the Mustard Seed Singers performed a highly enjoyable Festive Concert at St Mary’s Hall on the evening of Friday, 18 December. Under the direction of founder and director Elle Caldon, the Canterbury and Whitstable choirs united to perform a mixture of traditional carols sung to familiar tunes; well known ones to unfamiliar tunes; and one or two that were totally unknown to the audience. Early fears that the choir would outnumbered the audience proved to be unfounded as a late surge of people almost filled the hall.
The concert began with a spirited performance of “Carol of the Bells” which demanded rapid vocal delivery whilst maintaining clarity of diction; no easy task but the singers accomplished it. “Away in a Manger” was the first example of a familiar carol being sung to an unfamiliar tune. the Carol lost nothing of its charm and gentleness and was well received. “Silver Bells” returned us to the Christmas bells theme but this was a gentle affair, conjuring up images of busy shoppers relaxing to the sound of the bells. “Gloria Hodie” by Emily Crocker, was unknown to the audience but they were won over by its bewitching charm. It was a joy to rehearse and increasing familiarity led to a strong, confident rendition by the choir.
“Oh Little town of Bethlehem”sung to the most well known tune, gave two members of the choir the chance to perform short solos. Penny Kidson sang the first two lines of the first verse and John Rose sang the last two. The whole choir then sang the remainder of this delightful and so well known Carol. This brought the first half to a close and during the interval, mince pies and soft drinks were served to the audience by willing volunteers.
The second half began with “May your Cup” in which several seasonal goodwill sentiments were expressed in unison and generated warm applause. “Silent Night” was another example of a familiar Carol being sung to an unfamiliar tune but once again it worked well. “Mary’s Boy Child” followed and many older members of the audience will have recalled Harry Belafonte’s moving interpretation in the late 1950s whilst a younger generation will have been more familiar with the Boney M version. Elle Caldon then sang “The Angel Gabriel”, a traditional Basque Carol translated into English by Sabine Baring-Gould, Anglican Priest and folklorist from Devon and composer of many hymns, the best known being “Onward Christian Soldiers”. With a gentle piano accompaniment by Marius Reklaitas, Elle’s clear, strong voice emphasised the magic and simple beauty of the Carol. The audience gave Elle a well deserved ovation.
Dulcie Copeland and Jacqui Selby shared solos during the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s Royal City” then both choir and audience joined in the remaining verses. The concert ended with a resounding performance of “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. The concert raised an impressive £260 for group funds. Many thanks to everyone responsible for producing the programme, selling raffle tickets, producing and serving hordes of mince pies and soft drinks and for all the other tasks that ensured the evening’s success. Particular thanks to pianist Marius not only for his accompaniment during the concert but also for the hard work he puts in at regular rehearsals. Elle’s input is truly invaluable: put simply, without Elle’s inspired leadership and dedication, Mustard Seed Singers would not exist.
Mustard Seed Singers rely on grants and donations to keep going so the total raised was much appreciated and highly valued. The Mustard Seed Singers charity comprises two choirs, one in Canterbury and the other in Whitstable. The singers in the groups fully believe that singing has a positive influence on mental health and wellbeing, an idea that has been supported by recent research (principally by Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, based in Folkestone).
Whilst the groups are primarily designed for people with mental health problems and those affected by them, all are welcome. The ethos of the Mustard Seed Singers focuses on enjoying fellowship, having fun and most of all, singing together! If you would like further information about the choirs, please email Elle on
firstname.lastname@example.org and anyone wishing to learn about the ground breaking research into singing and wellbeing undertaken at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health should access
After a well deserved break, the Canterbury group will resume on Thursday 7 January 2016 at All Saints Hall, Military Road and the Whitstable group at St Mary’s Hall on Friday, 8 January at 5.30pm.“. -John Rose.