Leanne Blaney

Baritone section leader

I joined the Red Rosettes in 2014 after my new friend, Lindsay Carey, told me what a brilliant hobby it was. It didn’t take long for me to realise that she wasn’t exaggerating! Just hearing the chorus sing at those first few rehearsals was invigorating enough, then learning how to slot in to such a well-oiled machine offered me a different challenge to what I was used to.

I went from looking terrified, with my arms plastered to my sides, to feeling relaxed enough to really feel the lyrics and harmonies and let my self perform freely. To begin with, it was the attention to musical detail and the demanding nature of the musical director that made me love the hobby: striving for perfection, working for hours on a few notes, unwilling to settle for anything but the best. I knew others spoke about how the chorus was a ‘family’ but to be honest, I was just there to work on the craft.

When tragedy struck and cruelly took our brilliant MD Katy from us, I understood what it was I’d been missing: we weren’t just singing with each other, we were a support system filled with friendship and love.

Watching how Katy’s family have continued on after her death, never ceases to amaze me. The strength, compassion and selflessness displayed by each of them remains a true source of inspiration to me, and I’m sure to every member of our chorus.

I’ve been lucky enough to benefit personally from all of those qualities above after struggling through the hardest period of my life. After developing ME, a debilitating condition which severely affects energy levels, among other symptoms, I was unable to work as a teacher (a job I love) for 14 months.

After three months of being too ill to even attend rehearsals, returning to them lit up my world again. I lost count of the tears I shed over being only being able to participate for ten percent, then twenty percent of the time, but with patience came rewards, and being able to take part in chorus this year has brought joy into my life where it could have otherwise been lacking.

Performing on stage at our annual competition in 2017, with tearful parents watching on, left me feeling on top of the world, despite the effort confining me to my bed a few days after. The collective sense of achievement is a feeling like no other – quite possibly to best treatment I could ever have been offered. And it’s the wonderful women who make it such a pleasure for me. The constant kindness. The humour. The support system.

Six years ago, I was looking for a new challenge. Six years later, I’ve found life-long friends and a burning passion for a hobby that allows my soul to soar.