Peter Lehner on stage with the Sydney Street Choir.
Peter Lehner on stage with the Sydney Street Choir.

The Winsome goes gospel

The Lismore Soup Kitchen at The Winsome Hotel is launching a new gospel choir that will be for both Winsome residents and the general public.

The choir will be led by Peter Lehner, who has recently moved to the region and spent the last 20 years working with community choirs including the Sydney Street Choir and Silverwater Women’s Prison Choir. In 2009 he was given a ‘Living For Others’ award from the Universal Peace Federation and named ‘one of Sydney’s Top 100 Influential People’ by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Peter is a great believer in the healing power of singing.

“Every choir that I do I see profound change in people,” he said. “With the homeless choir in Sydney there is a very high turnover because as soon as they come in, their life turns around within a month. The choir members know where to get help for everything and they (new members) are welcomed with open arms.

“People who have all sorts of conflict in their lives isolate themselves, which is why I believe the opposite of homeless is community.”

Peter said the idea of getting the general community together with the people in crisis accommodation at The Winsome to sing was all about creating fraternity and community.

“Some people were upset about The Winsome closing, but hopefully the choir will allow the homeless to have a voice and for people who come along to gain some understanding of why they are in the situation they are in. It has a lot to do with childhood, I see that every time,” he said.

Peter also pointed out that singing has all sorts of health benefits. He pointed to some research carried out at the University of Frankfurt that showed that blood samples taken from a group of people after a 60-minute choir rehearsal that concentrations of immunoglobin A (proteins in the immune system that function as antibodies) and anti-stress hormones were significantly increased.

There are a range of other health benefits include the release of endorphins that make you feel good.

“Singing is actually good for you, like going to the gym. When you breathe deeply you are vibrating sound... There are lots of people doing healing work with sound and I think it’s increasing... It can help deal with anxiety and depression... I work with lots of people in all sorts of situations and see the results in every choir that I do,” Peter said.

The new gospel choir will begin rehearsing at The Winsome on June 2, and then every Wednesday night after that until July 28 from 7-8.30pm. No previous choir singing experience is necessary.

They are asking for a donation of $12 or $8 which will go towards setting up another choir exclusively for Lismore’s homeless. For more information you can contact Soup Kitchen president Mieke Bell 0407 789 528.

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