IT WAS when Mags Greenwood had difficulty singing that she realised something was wrong.

“I had, since being a teenager, been involved with musicals and as an adult took principal roles in both musicals and a couple of operas, the Magic Flute and Carmen,” she says.

“For several months I noticed difficulty when singing as I had problems with sustaining notes.”

As a solo performer this was a problem, so Mags, 61, of Barnoldswick, gave up singing and instead undertook a short course in the basics of being a musical director.”

After investigation into her difficulties, Mags was diagnosed with a rare bronchial carcinoid tumour which deprived her right lung of oxygen over a long period of time.

This resulted in not only the tumour but part of the bronchus - the passage or airway in the respiratory system that conducts air into the lungs - plus two-thirds of the lung having to be removed.

Following a successful operation and follow up treatment, she continued her association with musical theatre and worked for a number of years with a youth group.

“I taught the young people the musical score during rehearsals and conducted the orchestra during the run of the show. I have also worked with adults in the same capacity,” she recalls. “ I really missed singing though.”

Four years ago her friend Carol Squire asked Mags to join a choir with her. “Having not sung, except at home, for several years, I went along,” she explains. “I was immediately hooked and because I was one of many altos it didn’t matter at all that I quickly ran short of breath.

“Regular singing and the lack of pressure soon meant that I was regaining my confidence in my singing abilities and although I still sometimes struggle, I am amazed that my breathing control has more or less come back to what it was previously.”

She adds: “I love being a member of the choir, I leave every rehearsal with a real buzz both from the singing and the friendship we enjoy there.”

Mags, 61, sings with the 80-strong Skipton Choir. The group is a ‘new’ choir in name only, having run for more than ten years as part of the Rock Up and Sing family of choirs originally created by its former musical director Rhiannon Gayle. It attracts members not only from Skipton but Keighley area, the Aire Valley, the Dales and Harrogate area.

The choir sings a wide range of contemporary music including popular songs and songs from films and theatre, all of which they sing in four-part harmony. Anyone, of any ability can join - all that is required of members is a passion for singing. The concerts raise money for charitable causes, mostly local.

Watching a choir perform at a Skipton church was such an uplifting experience for Shelia Harper that she wanted to join in.

But her husband was ill and she very much doubted that she would have time to devote to the activity.

“We eventually arranged for a carer to come and look after my husband on a Monday evening, when the choir met, and I was all set to join at the start of the new term in September 2014,” she says.

But, sadly, Shelia’s husband died the day she was due to start. “I put all thoughts of joining to the back of my mind,” she adds.

After several weeks, Sheila, of Silsden, decided to take the plunge and went along.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done, walking into a group of people who all knew each other,” she says. “But people were so welcoming that I knew I had done the right thing.”

It was not easy, however, and for about six months Sheila, 73, admits she had to force herself to attend.

That was five years ago, and since settling in she has not looked back. She loves being a member of The Skipton Choir, which has led to her making many friends and taking on other, enjoyable roles.

“It has given me a confidence I didn’t know I had. I have met some wonderful people who I am proud to call friends,” she says. “Through one or two members I now volunteer with a toddler group and a stroke club.

She adds: “The choir has completely transformed my life and the joy of singing each week and catching up with friends is just wonderful. I would highly recommend anyone in a similar situation as I was to and come and join us.”

Retired teacher Maggie Bleathman began singing with the choir nine years ago after attending one of its concerts.

Registered blind, she has a guide dog who sometimes accompanies her to choir practice. “She is welcomed by everyone even though she is not very good at singing,” jokes Maggie.

“I thought I would like to try singing in a choir,” she says. “Although nervous at first, I soon found a very friendly group of people who help and support each other.”

“My main problem is not being able to read lyrics and see the conductor, however the music and words can be downloaded so I can listen to them and learn from memory. Singing has improved my listening skills which are important when singing in a choir.”

Being a member of the choir has enabled Maggie, 74, to continue to make friends and maintain some independence. “It is like one big family,” she says. “For me, the joy of singing and travelling with the choir to events and concerts is very therapeutic and helps me to carry on enjoying life and forgetting day to day worries.”

Studies show that choral singing improves our mood, with a decrease in stress, depression and anxiety. These effects are often attributed to the deeper breathing associated with singing, that is also used in meditation. These benefits are enhanced in a group setting, compared to singing alone.

David Meikle joined the Rock Up and Sing choir in 2009 and after its final concert joined The Skipton Choir.

“I had already sung with many of its members, so knew them,” he says. Being a choir member has given me a little more self-confidence, realising that contrary to personal belief, I could actually learn by heart more than 300 musical arrangements,” he says.

“In my case this was a great achievement which I originally would have thought impossible.”

For David, 74, and his wife Linda, of Knaresborough, joining the choir has helped them to cope with a traumatic event. The couple suffered the loss of their 29-year-old daughter Denise to a malignant tumour. “She had been in remission for four years but came home for the last 18 months of her life which were the most precious for us all but at the same time quite traumatic,” he says. “The joining of the choir and the mere effect of singing your heart out was a way off diminishing the distressing memories and remembering the positive ones- Denise was a Robbie fan and for us to sing Angels was quite something.”

He adds: “The choir brings with it a wide group of genuine friends who have been always mutually supportive, inclusive and without criticism- very admirable traits.

“Sharing new experiences, dealing with stage nerves, struggling to remember all the words and melodies, becoming an integral part of a unique community and knowing by doing this you are supporting many worthwhile causes is a reason to celebrate.”

The Skipton Choir can next be heard at Music for Martin House at Christ Church, Skipton, on Saturday November 16, featuring a range of well-known rock and pop anthems as well as more thoughtful modern choral work.

*For more information on future performances or joining visit