Read the article written by Southampton Sight volunteer Dorothy Oliver who is visually impaired, discussing her experience of singing with Southampton Choral Society. Very inspiring!click on Southampton Choral Society Article   

or read below

Choral Member, Dorothy Oliver shares her inspiring
story of never giving up on joining a Choral Society despite previous knock backs.
I joined Southampton Choral Society in January 2015. At first it was rather daunting,
but following a chat with our musical director, Peter Gambie, I soon felt very much at
home. In April we were to perform Requiems by Campra and Faure. My first
reaction was “How am I going to get all the words transcribed into Braille?” This
however, was soon rectified by Rosaleen Wilkinson, the choir membership secretary,
who said “Don’t worry I can type what you need”. Now, if they don’t have the score,
Rosaleen types the words which are then sent to Heather at the RNIB library for
transcribing into Braille.
We are an auditioned choir of approximately 120 singers. Other works we have
performance include Verdi and Mozart Requiems, Dream of Gerontius by Elgar,
Works by Haydn and most recently Rossini. It is fantastic to be part of such a
friendly choir.
I don’t receive any preferential treatment because of my disability for which I’m
pleased. I had to undergo an audition the same as everyone else. Being part of a
choir involves commitment as we have to attend rehearsals in preparation for
A number of years ago, I was at college in another part of the country. I attended an
audition and was told that although I had a nice voice I could not be in the
choir. When one of the tutors tackled the secretary she said: “We can’t have a blind
person in the choir. She may come in at the wrong place. John Rutter is conducting
our next concert so it would not look good to a professional conductor.” I’m sure
John wouldn’t have cared who was singing in the concert as long as they knew the
work, but I felt very downcast at the time. I’m so glad to have overcome this by trying
I enjoy singing very much and feel so privileged to belong to this large choir. Our
conductor has been a great support to my needs and his understanding I value very
much. He wanted me to write something in order to attract others who are visually
impaired who may feel this is something they can be involved in too. I don’t read
music but we have practice CDS or use Midi files which are very helpful.
This has been a fantastic experience for me and one I’m so glad to be part of. I
wanted to share my story as other visually impaired people out there may wish to
join a choir but are not sure where to start! Yes, it can be off-putting especially if
you’ve had a bad experience. I’m sharing this to let everyone know that all choir
committees and conductors are not the same. Most, I’m pleased to say, they look
beyond the disability!
So anyone out there who’s thinking of joining a choir or anything else for that matter,
Go for it! There’s nothing to lose. I’m glad to have taken the plunge!
Lastly and most importantly, I’m not writing this for my own glory. I want to thank the
people in the choir who have helped to make it possible for me to take an active
part. Firstly, to Peter Gambie, our conductor, for giving me this opportunity, secondly
to Rosaleen Wilkinson, the membership secretary, for her invaluable work in
laboriously typing large works. I could not have done it without her and finally, to
Heather at RNIB Library for her support in assisting me in getting material
transcribed into braille. Thank you all most sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
Peter Gambie from the Southampton Choral Society Director said: “One of my core
beliefs is that music should be open to everyone. Dorothy has a lovely voice which
fits in with the choir, she’s also very musical. The fact that she’s blind is not important
in terms of her belonging to our choir. Now that she’s moved house, she’s added an
extra layer of complexity to her membership because she has to do a 50-mile round
trip. I admire her commitment and her ability to overcome a host of practical issues,
such as getting Braille copies of the music we’re singing.”
Southampton Choral Society prides itself on being

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