Bringing harmony to mental health. Westminster Council held a Public Health and Well-being event at the Piazza outside Westminster Cathedral called Westminster Sings on Tuesday 15th May.

A new mental health choir from Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster Mind called Harmonious, led by David Phelops. opened the proceedings. They were introduced by Councillor Acton. The choir sang a variety of songs including Bill Withers’ Lean on Me, which has very meaningful lyrics which chime with the choirs’ objectives. Every singer looked like they were really enjoying the whole performance as did the audience who stopped to listen and, in some cases, join in on their way through the Piazza.

Unfortunately, three other choirs dropped out and so David Phelops was asked if More Than Just a Choir (MTJAC), which he set up in Harrow several years ago, would also be able to help. Some of the members of MTJAC were able to attend but to boost numbers, David put out a general plea, including at the HAMC and Grimsdyke Brass Ensemble Concert at St John Fisher on Saturday night for anyone who wanted to come along and join in with More Than Just a Scratch Choir on the day. An email was sent round to the members of HAMC and Tonic and a few members of each choir were able to boost numbers at the event.

As it was a scratch choir, the usual MTJAC uniform of black attire with mauve scarves was also scratched, although many did turn out either all, or partially, in black and the choir’s mauve scarves were handed out before the singing started. Again, a variety of mostly well-known pieces were performed with backing tracks and/or live keyboard or guitar accompaniment. Everything was sung in unison from lyric sheets, with no time to rehearse.

The MTJASC performance was scheduled from 1.35pm to 2pm and for most of the time there was a sizeable audience as people stopped to listen on their way through the Piazza, mostly on their way to or from their lunch break. As earlier, some even joined in by either singing or clapping along to numbers such as, Consider Yourself, Cabaret, Jambalya (On the Bayou) and Hallelujah. The sun shone, and the sound system worked well. The main challenge was the wind that caused the music to blow around occasionally.

A priest from the Cathedral said a few words and gave a blessing part way through the performance. The keyboard player/guitarist knew HAMC as he has played in the band at our social events – it’s a small world!

Between the two choirs’ sets there were two solo singers: Jessica Cherag-Zade, who sang Walkin’ on Sunshine, among others, and Yuri Sabatini, an Italian Tenor and singing teacher currently based in London. (He is using one of the photos taken by an HAMC associate member to illustrate his post about the event on Facebook.) After MTJASC, a primary school choir from Pimlico performed their set with great enthusiasm. There were representatives from Thrive LDN; Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster Mind; Westminster Council and partners and Central and North West London Mental Health Trust (CNWL).

A successful, feel-good event for Mental Health Awareness Week. Congratulations to all involved.

You can see more pictures here, which is also the link to the Facebook page for Harmonious.