“If you’re missing half a lung please do come along”
The Breathless Singers are a group of people who come together every week to overcome serious lung conditions and sing their hearts (and their lungs) out.
Musician, vocal leader and composer, Sharon Durant, set up the Breathless Singers two years ago to help people with breathing challenges. Its members have a variety of conditions such as COPD, Emphysema and Bronchiectasis. The choir meets once a week at St Hilda’s Church in South Shields and encourages its members to have fun and sing to help improve their lung function.
Sharon said: “The choir is a group of people that have some kind of breathing difficulties including forms of COPD, emphysema, bronchiectasis and one member is missing half a lung. Some people have very serious asthma, so there are a range of conditions which leave our members breathless.
“Living with breathlessness can be incredibly difficult and it impacts our members’ lives on a daily basis. Some of our members are ex-smokers and that’s why I believe campaigns like Every Breath are important, as they raise awareness of how smoking can seriously damage your lungs. I regularly see this firsthand and I would urge people to quit smoking to prevent further damage.
“We now average at 8 to 10 members a week, but we have up to 15 members on the list. They come along once a week to sing together. It’s great for them as it is partly social, so they can share experiences but at the same time we’re using singing to help their overall health and wellbeing by lifting their mood and extending their breath to increase their lung function.
“Our members can just drop in whenever they can, as it depends on how they are feeling to whether or not they can join us every week."
Sharon explains how singing can help people with lung disease. She said: “We do a range of warm up exercises at the beginning of every session. It’s different to a usual choir as we try to pay a lot of attention to our phrasing."
"We tend to sing songs with long phrases so we’re challenging them to extend their out-breath, because when people are short of breath, they often concentrate on taking breath in which is understandable. We really try to use diaphragmatic breathing and think about posture, so our members are helping themselves as much as possible."
The choir has also written their own song entitled ‘Breathless Singers’ based on their own experiences of living with a variety of lung conditions and how it impacts on their daily lives.
“One of the things we decided to do was to get feedback from the members about how they felt, and we did it as a songwriting exercise. Everyone participated and they came up with some great ideas. We had lots of things written down about what it’s like living with breathlessness and how it impacts them on a daily basis. One of the key things was to be able to walk just another bit further than they used to, as getting breathless when walking is a big thing. We took all of the lyrics they came up with and turned it into a song, which we love singing.”
The Breathless Singers have been funded by the British Lung Foundation and the Life of Breath project.