Tenants’ choir at Killowen House bringing the festive cheer

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Killowen House in Coleraine was the scene of a very special Christmas carol service this week as tenants from the housing with care scheme performed as a choir for their family and friends.

The carol service organised by the scheme included many traditional Christmas carols, readings and poems and featured local clergymen Rev James Hyndman and Pastor Eric Stewart who also spoke during the service.

Michelle Dunlop, Support Worker at Killowen House, has been the driving force behind the tenants’ choir since it formed last year and says she is very proud of every single member for their dedication and energy.

“The choir was established after I organised a few casual sing along sessions with tenants. At the time I thought they’re really good singers; we could have a great wee choir and that’s what we did! The tenants needed a bit of convincing but since then they have gone from strength to strength. We did our first Christmas concert last year and earlier this year we also performed at Easter. It’s been so much fun.”

The choir currently has sixteen tenants as members and choir practice take place once or twice a week in Killowen House. Michelle says it has been a privilege to support each and every member of the choir to participate fully.

“Some tenants have short term memory loss and need additional support to remember lyrics and instructions. Others may not have great mobility and so are unable to stand during performances, so now the choir has two standing rows and one seated row at the front. We make it work for everyone, because we know how beneficial singing can be for the physical and mental health of our tenants.”

Ruby Connolly has been a member of the choir since it formed and says it has really helped her confidence.

“I’ve never been in a choir before and I certainly didn’t think I could sing, but it’s been a pleasure to be involved. It’s really brought me out of my shell. Michelle has been wonderful. When we doubted, she believed. We have come so far and it’s great to put on this performance for our family and friends.”

Hugh Taggart is another member of Killowen House Tenants’ Choir and argues more schemes for older people should set up choirs; although he admits tenants need someone like Michelle to drive the choir forward and provide that encouragement and support.

“I think only two of our members had sung in choirs before so we’re all still learning, but it’s been a great experience. My favourite Christmas carol is O Holy Night, and the reason I like it so much is it’s a difficult song to sing but I think we’ve conquered it and I’m very proud of that.”

For more information about Killowen House or its tenants’ choir, please contact the scheme on 028 7032 9650 or visit www.apex.org.uk to view a video of the choir performing ‘O Holy Night’.