What to expect in our sessions
Unity is a super friendly group who love welcoming new people. Our sessions focus on our wellbeing, enjoying singing with others and having fun. We don't take ourselves too seriously but we do work hard to be the best that we can be. We sing music that makes us feel good!

Our sessions

What happens in our sessions?

On arrival you will be greeted by our friendly volunteers and have the chance to enjoy a cuppa and a natter to get settled in. When it's time to start singing, we'll let you know where it's best to sit and introduce you to other singers near you. We'll start with a warm up to get our bodies moving and then some fun vocal exercises that gently help us to start to use our voices.

In the main part of the session, we sing a variety of songs each week and build on the songs we learned the week before. You'll have lyric sheets and sometimes sheet music to help you but you don't need to be able to read sheet music to take part.

In the middle of our session, we have a 'mindful moment' where we take part in a short reflection or meditation based on a theme.  This is part of our commitment to bringing in the five ways to mindfulness in all of our sessions.

At the end of our sessions, there is an opportunity for a quick chat and to ask any questions that you may have.


Our Ethos

Unity is a fully inclusive choir that aims to help singers overcome their personal barriers to singing. Over half of our staff, volunteers and singers live with a physical and/or mental health condition or disability and/or a neurodiverse condition or disability or are affected by a cognitive or memory related condition. At Unity we do everything we can to support everyone in a way that's accessible for them within our supportive community. We see the ability not the disability and strive to help everyone achieve their personal goals.

Many of our new singers are extremely anxious about singing with a group. We know that it often takes a lot of courage just to walk through the door into your first session and are there to support you every step of the way.

Unity on tour at Hetton carnival

Your Wellbeing

Our sessions focus on supporting our singers with their health, comfort and happiness. There are many proven benefits to singing with others. Our sessions also include the five ways to mindfulness. We connect with others, stay active with gentle movement, take notice through 'mindful moments', keep learning and give to our community.

Our staff & volunteers have recently completed our Mental Health First Aid qualifications in order to help us provide the best possible support to our singers as we return to in-person sessions. We know that singing could trigger some uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings. Our Wellbeing Champions will be on standby to offer a listening ear, a private moment of comfort or signpost you to other ways to get support. Equally, if another singer shares something that impacts you, we will be there to offer you support in absorbing that news or stepping in if you feel unable to continue the conversation.

Whilst our staff will often be very busy in sessions, just give us the nod and one of the team will be happy to step aside, sit with you for a few minutes or call you afterwards. Remember that in Unity you are never alone.

Our Leaders

Our sessions are lead by professional singing leaders Rebecca and Sinead. They are both friendly, approachable and bursting full of energy and enthusiasm, working together to lead Unity.

Rebecca McGarvie, Founder of The Singing Elf
Rebecca founded Unity Choir in 2017 and directs our singing programme, taking the lead on our Tuesday evening sessions.

Sinead Livingston, Community Musician & Choir Leader
Sinead joined Team Elf in February 2021 to co-lead Unity with Rebecca, she will be taking the lead on our daytime sessions.

Sinead & Rebecca with brolley
Unity Choir performing in costume at Pop Decades

Our Music

We sing a variety of musical genres including musical theatre, pop, rock, gospel, folk, traditional and contemporary music. We choose pieces that we enjoy and that we think our audiences will enjoy too. By singing a real mix of styles we develop our vocal technique, musicianship and performance skills.

Sometimes we sing a cappella (unaccompanied) and other times accompanied by piano, guitar or backing tracks. Some of our pieces are technically harder and take longer to learn but we get a real satisfaction from cracking them. Others are much easier but we can focus on performing them confidently.

The lyrics we sing are important to us, we often sing songs with uplifting lyrics or a message that we believe in.

Unity's Spring 23 COVID Safety Measures (Updated Jan 23)

From January 2023 we will continue to supply FREE Antigen COVID test kits to all our adult participants and ask everyone who attends Unity Choir to take a nose-only, rapid 15min test within the 24 hours before attending. All our singers will be able to collect free tests in our sessions and will be asked to confirm that they are negative on arrival. As any type of infection can be dangerous to some of our community, we also ask that singers do not attend sessions with new symptoms of any potential covid, cold, flu, sickness or other winter bug. You will not be asked to provide any evidence of the test, we trust our community and simply will ask for verbal confirmation on arrival that you are currently negative.

We re-access our Covid & infection policies every term. Due to the high level of seasonal infection, the continued pressure on the NHS and the increased risk to those in our community who are more vulnerable we will be keeping our measures in place and will review again at Easter.

Thank you in advance for your support.
Be a COVID Champion

Why does Unity still have a COVID Safety Agreement?

Many of the people who attend Unity Choir are more at risk to the effects of COVID. More than half of our staff, volunteers and participants live with a physical, mental health and/or neurodiverse condition or disability, and/or care for others who are more vulnerable. Although the majority of our community are vaccinated, many of our singers have long term health conditions that could be made worse or relapse as a result of COVID or any other type of infection. Some of our singers are living with long Covid and/or have been greatly affected by the practical or financial implications of having Covid in the past year.

Unity is a fully inclusive choir - this means that we do everything in our power to remove any barriers to our activities that our singers may face. As a community, we have made a collective decision to help to support people who cannot take part in singing elsewhere and protect those more vulnerable than ourselves. This applies to all aspects of our sessions, including our approach to COVID.

Please follow the covid safety measures at our sessions

Got a question?
Just get in touch

We are always here to chat through any questions or concerns that you might have. Unity is an extremely supportive community and we do everything that we can to ensure the safety and comfort of our singers.

We understand that some of our participants may have questions or concerns, please let us know if you would like to discuss our COVID safety measures with one of our team.

Why does Unity Choir still use testing?

Since our return to in-person sessions in September 2021 we have ensured that our sessions are as safe as possible, using a range of mitigations including testing. Despite singing being identified by the government as a higher risk activity, this approach has successfully protected our singers and we have not had a single case of transmission within any of our sessions. In March 2022, The Singing Elf successfully campaigned to gain access to a free supply of tests which enables our community to keep testing without cost.

What about the people who feel that testing is a barrier to them?

When trying to be fully inclusive, there are times when some of our participants have conflicting needs and we know that what can assist some of our singers, can put others off taking part. It's a difficult call and one which we don't take lightly. However, on balance, at the moment, our community feel strongly about continuing to support those who are most vulnerable in any way we can. In the past our singers have consistently told us that they are willing to make the small inconvenience of a test to know they are protecting others, rather than using other more invasive mitigations such as using masks which we no longer require in sessions.

©2019 The Singing Elf

The Singing Elf Ltd, Trading as The Singing Elf Social Enterprise, Company No. 12246373.

Registered Office: The Old Rectory, The Broadway, Houghton-le-Spring, DH4 4BB, United Kingdom