ONE of the punk movement’s most prominent musicians has taken a turn in her musical career to launch a community choir on Tyneside.
County Durham-born Pauline Murray, who was the frontwoman of punk band Penetration, was moved to found the Byker Community Choir after taking over new premises in the area.
Following 21 years in Ouseburn, Pauline’s Polestar Studios, which offers rehearsal space to musicians, took up residence on St Michael’s Road last summer.
“When we moved in, I just had this idea that it would be a really good thing to start a community choir,” said Pauline, who played with the likes of The Stranglers, Generation X and the Buzzcocks in her punk heyday.
“I’m a strong believer in singing being really good for people and a great way to lift your spirits – whether you’re especially great at it or not. I spoke to the council and they backed the idea and sent me on a teaching course, as I’d never done anything like this before.”
Launched in January, the choir, which Pauline describes as having a “very organic and warm feel”, has been meeting for weekly rehearsals ever since, offering a wide range of benefits to its singers.
It now boasts a 17-strong membership and had a successful debut as part of The Sage Gateshead’s Americana Festival.
Among its members are Sue Bright, from Heaton, who wanted to boost her confidence and increase her self-esteem, while Pat Nellist from North Ridge in Bedlington wanted to take her singing experiences to the next level.
“I never would have believed that I would perform at The Sage,” said Pat. “It is a great experience with great people and even though I travel to Byker from Northumberland, I feel a real part of the community.”
“The performance at The Sage was a massive achievement for us,” said Pauline. “It was a bit daunting but at the same time it was great to have something to work hard towards, and then get the satisfaction.”
During the Americana Festival gig, the choir performed five songs including Sloop John B, California Dreaming and If I Had a Hammer. But any idea of a Penetration cover has been dismissed by Pauline, who still performs with her band regularly.
“We did the Durham Punk Festival a couple of weeks ago and have got a gig at The Cluny booked for November 5. I don’t think the band’s back catalogue would work very well for the choir,” she laughed. “We’re currently working on a Christmas repertoire to perform at the lights switch- on in Byker and we want to go to some old folks homes and stuff like that too,” she added.
“People are quite scared to join a choir as they feel intimated and sometimes the hardest part is turning up. But we are a very friendly bunch and welcome everyone with open arms.
“It’s great to get the chance to perform, but the main thing is all about enjoyment, getting in there and doing it and feeling good. I suppose in that way, it’s not much different to punk.”
Anyone interested in joining the Byker Community Choir should call 0191 265 8333 or go along to Polestar Studios, St Michael’s Road, Byker, on Wednesday evenings between 6pm and 8pm.
People are quite scared to join a choir as they feel intimated and the hardest part is turning up