Picture above: Still from video: “Fix You” by Coldplay, performed by Hummingsong Community Choirs. Arrangement by Dorothy Horn.
Anna Humberstone is the Founder and Artistic Director of Hummingsong Community Choirs – a 500 strong group of women across 8 acapella choirs in Sydney and most recently Melbourne. Hummingsong Choirs are committed to quality music making, taking their non-auditioned members on a journey of aiming high and reaching goals that the singers and often audiences never thought possible.
“It’s not just about getting together and having a good old sing. It’s much more thoughtfully scaffolded to create an environment that takes each member on a journey that is both musically, socially and intrinsically fulfilling” said Anna.
For Anna the key word is “community”, bringing together women of all backgrounds and stages in life to sing, laugh, nourish their souls and build close-knit connections. The other important purpose of Hummingsong Choirs is to extend support to those most vulnerable in the community, women and children escaping domestic violence. For Anna “domestic violence bears no social class…it’s a passion of ours to continue working towards zero tolerance for violence against women.”
For many years Hummingsong Choirs have raised awareness for the Women’s Community Shelters through fundraising at their annual concert. To date Hummingsong Choirs has raised over $200,000 for this cause. In 2019 Hummingsong Choirs were able to take their passions of singing, community and domestic violence awareness to a world-wide audience by making the semi-finals of Australia’s Got Talent with their stirring arrangement of Somewhere Only We Know by Keane.
Fast forward to 2020 and the contrast from last year could not be starker. COVID-19 has brought choral singing and its many benefits to an abrupt halt. As one Hummingsong member puts it, “not being able to sing has had an effect on my happiness, well-being and overall mental health”. The knock-on effect also means that charities such as Women’s Community Shelters who rely on fundraising through the Arts and Entertainment sector are missing out on the community funds they rely on so heavily to survive.
In the absence of concerts and reality TV exposure, this year Anna forged ahead with a video production of Coldplay’s Fix You as their major fundraising effort. Over 230 members individually recorded their parts which were then pieced together to create a moving arrangement. “Singing over zoom is a poor substitute compared to the benefits of singing in choir” Anna said, however the video has managed to raise in excess of $22,700 of a $40,000 target since its mid November release.
Now that large gatherings at sporting and theatre events are permitted, it’s hoped that choral singing will soon follow. The life-enhancing benefits for those who love choir and the flow-on support it provides to the vulnerable are what lifts a community and makes it stronger.
Carolyn Thompson joined Hummingsong in 2015 after the death of her mother left her longing for something to provide some comfort and happiness. Unable to read music and not feeling comfortable singing alone, Carolyn was attracted to this non-audition community choir. She knew at her first visit she had found something very special. Hummingsong provides a welcoming, fun, challenging and inspirational space for women to come together to learn and sing beautiful songs in harmony. The friendships, sense of belonging and “soul food” elements of choir give Carolyn so much to be thankful for. The choir also gains a greater sense of unity and purpose through their fundraising efforts for charities such as Women’s Community Shelters.
Carolyn can’t wait for the restrictions preventing Choral singing due to COVID 19 to be lifted so she can be back with her friends doing what they love, and for the choir to continue its work raising funds to support those experiencing violence at home.
Hummingsong Community Choirs can be found at https://www.hummingsong.com.au/