The Paul Sartori Community Choir was one of the first recipients of our Community Changemakers Fund. One year on, we catch up with them to see how they’ve grown.
The Paul Sartori Community Choir has come a long way since it was founded in 2022. It began as a way to unite the community and to raise awareness of Paul Sartori Hospice at Home – Pembrokeshire’s only charity of its kind.
“People in the charity had spoken for years about forming a choir,” says the choir’s administrator Judith Williams (and Grant Development Officer at Paul Sartori). “One of our bereavement counsellors had mentioned that choirs are great for improving well-being, and when COVID happened, wellbeing was such a big thing, it provided extra motivation.”
The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Judith heard about South West Wales Connected’s Community Changemakers Fund.
“I thought it was an ideal opportunity to be able to set up a choir to assist with community wellbeing,” she said.
When Judith applied for the funding, the choir was envisaged as a short-term project, but it’s been such a huge success that it’s now a permanent fixture, helped along more recently by funding from the National Lottery Awards for All programme. When that funding ends, the choir will become self-sufficient, funded by members’ donations.
“The local community have really engaged with it and want it to continue,” said Judith, adding that in the past year the choir has practically doubled in size, “We now have an average of 40 community members per rehearsal from all backgrounds, all ages, and all abilities.”
The membership includes members of the general public and people who have links with Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, including staff and volunteers.
“We’re all about supporting Paul Sartori, and the charity itself has seen the benefits of this choir in terms of helping to reach out to the community and raising much-needed funds,” added Judith.
Since forming, the choir has moved venue twice to accommodate its growth. Rehearsals are now held at the Merlin Theatre in Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest. Once the choir’s lottery funding runs out, the College have offered them the venue free of charge.
The choir also has a new musical director, Mark Heron – a local teacher and Paul Sartori volunteer. Mark has a special association with the charity, as he was baptised by Father Paul Sartori himself (the inspiration for the charity). This makes his connection with the Paul Sartori Community Choir even more poignant.
“He’s really helped us – he’s great fun and has plugged us into his extensive network,” said Judith.
Mark continues to add new numbers to the choir’s eclectic repertoire, which includes Cwlwm Cariad, Bridge Over Troubled Water, As Long as I have Music, and I Have A Dream (ABBA Medley).
No previous musical experience is needed to get involved: help is provided for anyone new to reading music.
“It’s a very supportive atmosphere and we really encourage the social aspect of it as well,” said Judith. “We always stop for a cup of tea and biscuits halfway through our rehearsal, and we encourage any opportunity to socialise.”
The choir has certainly been kept busy in the past year. They participated in the Night of 100 Voices concert at Follies Theatre in Folly Farm in January performing with the Vision Arts Show Choir and Pembroke & District Male Voice Choir; were invited, as special guests, to take part in a Spring Concert with Milford Haven Town Band in March; and celebrated their first anniversary in April with a buffet and a professional photography session.
They also sang outside Morrisons in Haverfordwest in May and took part in a Paul Sartori fundraising event at the Old Point House in Angle on Saturday May 27.
“This was a great lunchtime event – singing in the sun to a well-received audience,” said Judith. “Our first choir rehearsal was April 7 2022 – who knew we would be where we are now!”
The choir now has its own clear identity: members wear choir-branded fleeces and the sunflower badge, a symbol of the hospice movement.
“A local business, Sigma Display, has funded the production of an a-frame advertising board for us to take to events – this goes everywhere we go now,” added Judith.
“Going forward, we are always open to new members joining at any time and we will continue to have fun and enjoy singing. We’ll add to our growing repertoire, and keep performing. It really is a good fun choir, open to all and has such a lovely bunch of people involved. We all hope it continues for many years to come!”
The choir’s future performances include:
- The Soroptimist lunch (a fundraising event for Paul Sartori) in July
- A lunchtime concert at St Marys Church, Haverfordwest (as part of their Festival Week) on Saturday July 22
- The Paul Sartori Traditional Skool Sports Day event at St Davids Rugby Club on Saturday August 12 (lunchtime)
- Joint Evening Concert in collaboration with Neyland Ladies Choir at Merlin Theatre, Haverfordwest on Saturday September 30.