Lisburn music teacher Johnny McGeown, who also leads the praise band at First Lisburn Presbyterian Church, has added a new string to his bow, by taking on the role of choir master of the new Parkinson’s Choir.
If you go along to the Agape Centre on the Lisburn Road any Saturday afternoon between 2.30 and 4pm, you’ll be able to enjoy listening to an enthusiastic and talented bunch of people singing all kinds of songs from classical to those of African influences.
But this is no ordinary choir because its members either live with Parkinson’s Disease, or have family and loved ones affected by the condition, and got involved with the project - which is still in its pilot stages - as part of a drive by the Northern Ireland branch of charity Parkinson’s UK to have a positive impact on the lives of those people with Parkinson’s.
Jonny is the choir’s director and revealed why he decided to get involved with it.
‘‘Since becoming freelance three years ago, after a lifetime of teaching music in a post-primary school, I have had the privilege of getting involved in different community music activities, and the invitation to be involved in this choir was a chance to combine musical skills with an opportunity to serve people for whom music might have some challenges.
“My musical life has been varied, playing violin and singing, both as a choir member and professionally as a solo entertainer.
“I have trained choirs throughout my working life, both as a school teacher and also as co-director of the Lisburn Community Choir. But in the last three years I have worked on some projects in community music workshops, and have found it very fulfilling.”
Jonny said that there was a “clear sense of community” growing amongst the Belfast choir members, and they had all responded well to his efforts to encourage the development of their voices.
“I think most people have some reluctance to get involved in a new group, regardless of whether it involves singing.
“However, I believe that music always unlocks aspects of our personalities, and enables us to set aside inhibitions.
“For anyone who is unsure about getting involved, I would say that the activities we follow each week are intended not just as musical activities, but attempting to offer a fun way of enhancing their breathing, coordination and voice strength.”