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Sheffield Cancer Choir Story

Former nurse, Darrell, tells us what it means to set up Sheffield's first cancer choir.

Eight members of Sheffield Cancer Choir perform indoors, holding sheets of music.

Sheffield’s first cancer choir hits the right note

“When you are being treated, there is a lot of focus on your physical side of your care, like getting you well and getting rid of your cancer.Then afterward it feels like you have just gone through a bad dream. You want to restore your health, mental and psychological wellbeing, so it catches up with the physical side of being looked after.”

Having survived breast cancer under the care of Weston Park Cancer Center, a former nurse has set up the city’s first cancer choir, with support from Weston Park Cancer Charity.

With a background in amateur dramatics and choir singing, the founding members believe that signing could be a form of therapy for anyone directly or indirectly affected by cancer.

Darrell Re tells us more;

“I think for a lot of people when they first get a diagnosis, you can just think ‘I’m going to die’. I went through a sort of grieving process. I was shocked, I was so angry…I felt guilty too. Looking back I realise I went through a sort of denial, as well. But I survived. It was awful, and complicated, but I got through. And Weston Park Cancer Charity was there for me, so when I felt up to it, I thought “right, it’s time to pay it back.”

I went into the charity and asked if they had a choir, because I thought singing would help. They said no, so I asked, “do you want one?”.

It wouldn’t have happened without Joanne Hockney, our musical director and Liz Clay, our choral master – we did this together. And I don’t know how, but within six months we had songs, recordings, rehearsal space, a pianist the University had found for us, and the most amazing choir ever. Singing together is just pure joy.

From there nothing could stop the choir. The launch was covered by The Star and BBC Radio Sheffield and ITV Calendar featured the choir singing live at the Master Cutler Challenge launch. Some of our members had never sung, or been on a stage. Yet, within six months, they were performing on live TV!

“The magical thing is that people who have hidden after cancer, lost that confidence and energy, not wanted to get out of bed…singing together has got them going again…it’s been a light to the dark side. It’s brought us all together, lifted us up and given us each other.”

Some members don’t want to talk about cancer, but they have an idea of what everyone’s feeling. The main thing is that this has given us all the members something, like a light to the dark side.

“It’s been a normality and something to look forward to. The future is a difficult thing with cancer – so often it’s something to be afraid of. But this gives us good things to look forward to – we can’t wait to get back together in a room. We really miss each other.”

Even in lockdown, members from the choir have kept singing, doing rehearsals online, and managing a socially distanced garden party.

“We sing Abba’s ‘Thank You For The Music’ at the end of every rehearsal, and we mean it. It’s brought us all together, lifted us up and given us each other.”

Weston Park Cancer Charity promises to be with patients and their families, together at every step, providing all the support they need.