How did Rock Choir start?
I created the first Rock Choir when I was a teacher to help a small group of students through the music element of their performing arts course. It ended up being 175 strong, with kids from other courses. One of their mums said to me: ‘Can’t you do one for us?’ I handed my notice in, went to my dad and borrowed some money. I needed 180 members to keep the mortgage going, and we just about did it in the October of that year. Then it just went boom. It started in Farnham because that’s where I live, and then Guildford and Godalming. We hear some amazing personal stories – people who have gone through a divorce or bereavement who get support from the friendships and the power of singing, which builds their confidence.
They just have to be brave enough to step through the door. Our current membership nationwide is 27,000. Rock Choir puts everyone in the same boat – they don’t have to sing on their own, audition or read music.
What makes for a good Rock Choir song?
The main ones are the upbeat, feel-good songs. The others are anthemic, about standing proud in the face of adversity. Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre has become the Rock Choir anthem – we sing it everywhere we go.
Was there a song or performance which influenced you to make a career in music?
When I was 10, I was at the Royal Festival Hall performing the violin in an orchestra. As a treat my parents took me to see Starlight Express afterwards. It made me want to sing pop songs. I got my Grade Eight in piano when I was 15, lied about my age and got a job in a nightclub in Birmingham singing and playing piano. My master plan was to be a singer, and everything I did was to help that.
What music do you listen to at home?
I listen to Capital FM and watch all the music channels to keep in touch. I’m looking for well-crafted pop songs. I like Jess Glynne, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. I’m a big fan of Magic FM – nine out of 10 songs they play we have done in Rock Choir because they are good heart-warming songs.
What was the last film you watched?
I watched A Royal Night Out at the weekend on DVD. It was really sweet – the last scene when the future queen is driving herself back to the palace with a huge smile on her face after joining in the VE Day celebrations is amazing. I hope it’s true. Last year 40 of us did a mass trip to the cinema to see the film Sing. We took over the cinema, and were singing along to the songs.
What do you like to read?
Historical novels are my go-to book – if I have a holiday that’s when I sit and read. I’m into Philippa Gregory. A friend of mine is always chucking new books at me.
What book do you like to give as a present?
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. If you give out the right vibe and energy to the universe everything is available if you have the right attitude.
What was the last live theatre you saw?
I go to so many Rock Choir events and flash mobs – they are street theatre.
What does the future hold for Rock Choir?
We have lots of things we can’t talk about – we’ve got a huge event at the end of the summer with the BBC but the line up hasn’t been announced yet. I’m going to have to ask 27,000 people to keep a secret! We have also been invited to take Rock Choir worldwide. Rock Choir has continued to grow – we want it so that people in the UK are never more than 15 miles away from a choir.