Media Coverage 

Here you’ll find a selection of media coverage from our local press and most recently the BBC, who visited us in January 2023 to film the group in action.

If you’d like to write an article, review a concert or report on our work at The ParkinSongsters, please get in touch with us.
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The Parkinsongsters

On Monday 18 December, the ParkinSongsters sang a selection of traditional Christmas carols and seasonal songs at St John’s Church Hall, Brittany Road, Saint Leonards-on-Sea. It was a magnificent performance, with beautiful, uplifting singing and harmonies.

The choir was conducted excellently by Jane Metcalfe, who not only led the choir, but also directed the large and enthusiastic audience, to join in and sing at appropriate moments within the programme.

ParkinsonSongsters was founded by Diane Baker, in 2010, She was chair of the local Parkinsons UK branch at the time and her vice-chair, Allan Barfield who had lived with Parkinson’s for some time, mooted the idea of starting a voice group.

“He wanted to set up a voice group, because when you were referred to a speech therapist, it was only for a limited number of weeks, and then it would stop abruptly. So he decided  to set up a therapeutic voice group, because of the great benefits of working with the voice for people with Parkinson’s”, said Diane.

They spoke to Karen McNally, a speech therapist at the Conquest, and she suggested that they get in touch with Jane Metcalfe. “So we met up with Jane and everything took off from there in 2010. We started with voice exercises and simple songs to help limber up the voice, and it has been growing successfully since then!”

A rich and full sound

I mentioned to Diane that the rich and full sound of the choir seemed much larger than the number of people involved, and she replied “yes, it always surprises me whenever I stop singing for a moment and listen to them. I am so pleased with their progress. Part of it is, for the participants, the pure joy of being able to stand up in front of a group of people and to sing for them. They are very nervous at first. I remember two people who joined us for a previous concert at Saint John’s Church and they were very self-conscious and just wanted to sit in the back row, saying that they did not want to be seen. At the end of the concert, they said how lovely the experience had been and they asked if we could please do it again very soon. That is the great impact that singing has on people. It is absolutely uplifting.”

I spoke with a few of the participants at the concert, who confirmed these sentiments.

Chris, who has been singing with the choir for just over a year, told me, that “singing in a group was very relaxing and that the exercises had helped him greatly with his physical symptoms and also the benefit of not feeling “nearly as self-conscious in a group with others in the same situation.”

Sandra, who joined the choir two years ago, told me that, “the singing has strengthened my voice and my voice projection. Whereas before, my voice used to just tail off, it no longer does that. Before, I had trouble swallowing, which is one of the Parkinson’s symptoms, but the voice and breathing exercises that Jane teaches us, strengthens the muscles, and helps so much, that swallowing is no longer a problem. We boost one another, and it all gives us a positive frame of mind. We hardly ever talk about Parkinson’s when we are together, we talk about everything else!”

A very inclusive choir

The choir also welcomes carers and family member. Annette, who is Tony’s wife, also sings in the choir and “thoroughly enjoys“ the singing experience. Another member of the group, who was in a wheelchair, told me that “the breathing exercises had helped him to sleep at night, which always used to be a problem. I have trouble walking now, but the singing is one of the few things that I actually come out for. The socialising part of it is very important to me.”

Several of the choir members mentioned to me that their condition had made them very self-conscious in the public sphere and, by singing in the choir, they overcame their self consciousness completely.

Three cheers for the two Janes

Jane Metcalfe, who conducted the concert with great assurance, had a career in opera, and was a principal singer with the D’Oyly Carte and other opera companies in the UK. She taught singing to Music Therapy students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for many years, and now, as well as leading the ParkinSongsters gives private lessons in Hastings.

When I told Jane that several members of the choir had spoken with affection and enthusiasm about her teaching methods, she seemed surprised. “I work them very hard!” she laughed.

She then told me that she uses a varied combination of techniques, including traditional voice and breathing techniques and Chi gong exercises. “I also use playful and silly exercises, to help engage and keep the members focused and engaged.”

As a bonus for the concert, actress Jane Brooman gave an excellent and evocative reading of the poem Christmas, by John Betjeman.

Anyone with Parkinson’s and their carers are welcome to join the choir. 


The ParkinSongsters – BBC South East News, Jan 24th 2023

A snapshot of the The ParkinSongsters,  filmed for BBC South East News on January 24th, 2023. The film highlights the benefits of singing for people with Parkinson’s, and the pleasure that joining in this rewarding communal activity can bring to group members, as well as helping people with Parkinson’s to lead a normal life.

Living with Parkinson’s: Why I joined ParkinSongsters

December 22nd, 2022

Paul Greep 

The hall is tucked neatly behind St John’s Church, St Leonards; a few steps leading down to the entrance. I check myself – do I have enough tissues to deal with any dribbling? Will my voice quiver and scrape? Will any twitching be out of place?

I’ve come to my first session with Parkinsongsters, a group of people affected by Parkinson’s Disease who meet weekly to sing. It has taken me a while to gather courage and curiosity to try them out.

I belong to the class of singers who let rip when alone in the car, singing along to the radio, looking strange and deranged to anyone who happens to peer in. Like many people I think I cannot sing and lack confidence. Having a diagnosis of Parkinsons some six years ago, my confidence has double-dipped, and singing with others like me seems a bit perverse and risky. However part of me thinks it might just help … so I pass into the hall …

ParkinSongsters – Alan, Paul and Brenda enjoying a chat

A semi-circle of chairs and others arrive, some 10 in total. That is manageable I decide, at least for my first exposure. Jane Metcalfe leads the group and we begin to explore our voices and warm up with breathing exercises: calling, naming, making noise, which becomes fun and liberating, like when you are five and you play with sound in the playground. We are playing with lungfuls of air, our mouths making shapes and tongues tickling, grimacing and laughing as we loosen up and begin to enjoy what sounds we can make.

Then come the song sheets, with many I have never heard of: medleys of Broadway shows; simple rhymes from childhood; others from song-book greats, Novello, Bernstein; and then some more modern like Simon and Garfunkel. And we are making noise, which sounds more and more like true singing as we gain confidence with Jane’s gentle and sometimes energetic encouragement.

We sing songs from TV and radio, traditional and modern; a unique mixture that is wide and appealing. There’s some firm advice too on how to use our bodies, our diaphragms, our breathing, keeping us up to the mark, and we are reminded of what’s possible with the right kind of effort.

By the end we are tired but somehow energised, excited, pleased with what we have accomplished; a challenge to the disease, breathing better, articulating with more precision, building week by week towards one of our seasonal concerts, which have attracted many followers who like our simplicity and our courage, our work and our pleasure.

So for me this has become a necessary place to be, a regular time with friends, peers and equals; a place to stretch our skill and literally find our voices. The time speeds along, it’s fun, it’s joyful, and it brings energy, improving our speech and our stamina; it’s a common endeavour of work and play, a lifting of mood and a sense of being elsewhere in our lives. What a difference it all makes.

Our Winter Concert – Songs Reflecting the Seasons of Life – will be held on Monday 5 December, from 3pm-4.30pm at St John’s Church Hall, Brittany Road; St Leonard’s on Sea. There will be tea and cake. Free admission with donations invited in aid of Parkinson’s UK – Bexhill, Hastings and Rother group.



ParkinSongsters’ Winter Concert  – Monday 5th December 2022

Review  – By Didier Montillaud

Before I write my piece, I feel I must start by declaring an interest.  My partner is a member of ParkinSongsters. Consequently, dear reader, I am likely to write subjectively about the group and their concert, for which I make no apology.

ParkinSongsters, as you might have deduced already, is a group for people with Parkinson’s disease, who meet weekly at St John’s Church Community Hall in St Leonard’s –on-Sea. They meet with the main purpose of alleviating some of their symptoms through the transformative energy of breathing and sound.  The effort of singing challenges their condition by impacting the very physiological fiber required for making sound for singing.

Ability to sing is not a core requirement, whilst willingness to participate is.  And it is clear by the group’s enthusiasm that all participants want to be there and want to sing! Physical abilities are also varied, ranging from people quite able, to others visibly struggling. Whilst singers have varied singing abilities, all are dedicated to making the performance work.

The energy in the room is palpable. The group looks professional.  They arrange themselves in a semi-circle, facing the audience, hence maximizing sound projection to the delight of the audience.  Jane Metcalfe, the group’s leader, introduces the concert. She explains the work she does with the group. She engages the audience in doing breathing exercises she teaches the group, so that we simultaneously get to experience some of the content of her teaching and become alert to the physiological challenges group members face with producing sound for singing, which, in turn, she tells us, help people with Parkinson’s to feel better.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Steal Away, The Gasman Cometh, Brush Up Your Shakespeare, The Sound of Silence and Autumn Leaves were some of the standards performed with professional gusto. To give the choir a rest, classical guitarist, Steve Gordon, performed a couple of pieces, including a haunting piece by Villa Lobos

The marriage of Jane’s leadership and the choir’s execution produced a delightfully performed concert. The singers had warmth, harmony and joy in their voices. I found the group’s rendition of Autumn Leaves particularly touching.  And all the other songs were treated with equal respect and rigour. I felt energised and despite the grey weather, I left the concert with a bright sun in my head. I recommend ParkinSongters’ concerts. They are well-being-enhancer events.

ParkinSongsters Summer Concert

July 15th, 2022

Jane Metcalfe 

The ParkinSongsters Summer Concert, Monday 25 July, 3pm – 4.30pm at St John’s Church, Upper Church Road, Hollington.

The ParkinSongsters have built up a loyal following over the past 12 years, not only providing an opportunity for people with Parkinson’s to meet and enjoy the many positive benefits of singing, but to offer public concerts that raise awareness of the condition, as well as garner funds for Parkinson’s UK – Bexhill, Hastings and Rother Group.

The ParkinSongsters offer an enjoyable and varied programme of songs with a summer and water theme, including traditional and modern favourites, plus a stirring selection from The Sound of Music. Guest performers this year are aspiring young opera singer, Maya Godlonton-White and the bubbly children’s choir, The Music Notes.

The performance will take place at St John’s Church, Upper Church Road, Hollington, Monday 25 July, 3pm-4.30pm and includes refreshments. Entrance is free but donations are invited to be shared between Parkinson’s UK local group and St John’s Church Building Fund.

Around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s, which means there are an estimated 127,000 people in the UK with the condition. Alongside dance, singing is found to be of particular benefit to those with Parkinson’s. The ParkinSongsters meet every Monday 2.45-4pm, barring holidays, at St John’s Church Hall, Brittany Road, St Leonards.

Looking on the Bright Side Ten Years On

November 26th, 2021

Jane Metcalfe

It’s widely acknowledged that singing is good for you: it lifts the spirits and brings people together. Being part of a singing group, small or large, gives the individual a sense of communality, well-being and achievement (see Music for Wellbeing in Issue 189). And singing is particularly beneficial for people whose physical and mental functions are impaired. There’s just something about giving voice in song that sharpens everything, as I’ve discovered through a decade of running The ParkinSongsters.

Set up as a therapy group in 2010 by Parkinson’s UK, Bexhill, Hastings and Rother branch, the initial aim was to provide healthful voice and breathing exercises to help with the speech and swallowing difficulties that affect so many with the condition. We soon discovered that the most effective way to consolidate the exercises was through singing, and thus The ParkinSongsters was born.

The group first met on a snowy November afternoon in an ice-cold hall along the Bexhill Road. None of us knew quite what to expect. Founder member, Allan Barfield, had enjoyed singing with The Hastleons until Parkinson’s made it difficult to continue. Determined to keep himself active for as long as possible, he persuaded the local Parkinson’s UK branch to set up the group and I was approached by Allan to run it. Reluctant at first, despite years of facilitating voice workshops for music therapy students, Allan’s persistence won, and I agreed to give it a go.

Founding member Allan Barfield – centre in blue, red and white

It was obvious from the first session that those who came along shared Allan’s enthusiasm. They immediately entered into the spirit of things, and their enthusiasm has kept the group going from strength to strength over the years – as well as providing us all with a sense of achievement. People have come and gone, but an essence of each of them remains and, I like to think, inspires those who have joined at a later date.

In 2013 the group was asked to sing at a lunchtime concert in Holy Trinity Church; it was such a success that we didn’t stop until live performance was temporarily shut down. We sang in all sorts of situations, from churches to care homes; we had a flash-mob in Morrison’s and, until recently, an annual Christmas stint in the minstrel’s gallery at Conquest Hospital, serenading visitors with a programme of seasonal songs. In 2016 we made a short film about the group, funded by The Big Lottery, about the large benefits of singing for people with Parkinson’s. You can watch the film here.

The group has tackled pretty-much all styles, our repertoire includes nursery rhymes, jazz standards, folk, opera, humorous and much more. We like to send ourselves up in a light-hearted way – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life being a favourite encore. And of course we do some whacky things in the name of exercises as we don’t believe in doing things by halves. Everything counts in small but meaningful ways towards feeling better and more confident, culminating in a sense of self-validation when we sing in front of our always enthusiastic audiences.

After an 18-month gap, we booked a date to meet in early September to practice for our delayed tenth anniversary concert. As I helped set up chairs, I wondered if many would come back, but when the hall doors opened at 2.30pm, thirteen keen ‘songsters’ entered, making a beeline for their seats.

Despite the freshly-painted hall, glossy floor and smart new clock that told the correct time, everything was back in place for our first live session, and a round of our favourite ‘wacky’ Name Game began…