COMMUNITY music ensemble, Ballarat Gospel Choir, is ready to warm up their vocal chords for 2019, having had a break last year while their director, Alice-Jane Webb went through cancer treatment.
Mrs Webb’s endometrial cancer was discovered when she decided she wanted to start her own family.
“My husband and I went to an IVF clinic…and the doctor found some irregular cells,” she said.
She was treated in Melbourne very quickly by “the best doctors.”
“It was very difficult to handle – news of having cancer as well as not being able to have children.
“We have looked at adoption, but the processes in Australia make it super hard, and you need to be in remission for three to five years. I felt that a part of my life was taken from me and I was angry.”
Psychologically, emotionally and physically, human bodies experiencing this kind of trauma can benefit from the release of singing, and Mrs Webb is well aware.
Practicing with the shoulders back, chin up and feet slightly apart promotes great posture. When a person sings, their throat and palate muscles are kept active which can improve sleeping.
Singing releases muscle tension and endorphins, stimulates circulation, strengthens the immune system, the lungs and the diaphragm. But singing can also be a wonderful distractor, stress reliever and mood booster for those not feeling their best.
“I remember sitting in the emergency ward at St Johns, and I started singing, In Your Hands by Kirk Franklin, and that seems to settle me down to be able to understand,” Mrs Webb said.
“The Lyrics say, I know that I can make it, I know that I can stand, no matter what may come my way, my life is in your hands. Many of the nurses used to come in to listen to me singing in the chapel at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. It was relaxing and made me feel calm and ready to deal with anything.
“I am grateful to be cancer free, healthy and back leading the choir.”
Mrs Webb said she has an eclectic taste for tunes and can’t wait to “spread some joy through music” in 2019.
“I have always loved up-beat pure gospel music, the groove of jazz, funk, soul, house and hip-hop.
“It is the type of music that you can sing with your heart and soul – the beautiful and powerful melodies. Gospel has an infectious energy to it.”
Nearly 30 people have expressed their interest in being a part of the choir this year and Mrs Webb hopes to attract more people who love to sing regardless of their approach to religion.
“The choir is not religious during rehearsals, we welcome everyone of every faith to come together and sing.”
She expects the choir will perform at local and regional churches, get involved with festive concerts throughout the year and do some busking.
New songs have been written by Mrs Webb especially for the group and she’s looking forward to hearing them in practice, having been involved with music for a long time.
“I was a member of the Rosny Children’s Choir which toured all over the world, and music has always been a part of my life.
“I love original music,” she said. “My father plays the guitar, and writes his own songs, I loved playing and writing songs with him as I was growing up.
“I encourage others who write songs to submit music for the choir to sing.”
The choir’s first rehearsal this year will be on Monday, 4 February, 7.30pm-9pm at the One2One Church, 121 Gillies Street, Ballarat.
When Mrs Webb and her husband moved to Ballarat, she contacted some churches about starting a choir and One2One reached out.
“Their choir had recently fallen apart and they needed a new leader, so it was all meant to be,” she said.
“The church has donated the room to us and it is a great location with good parking and access for all types of people. It would be great to see new people and it is a great community group to make new friends.
“The bonds you form singing with others can be profound. Our group is super friendly and diverse. Music brings together so many people.”
Follow the Ballarat Gospel Choir at facebook.com/ballaratgospel for announcements.