The Heartbeat of Healing: Volunteering in the Canberra Hospital Foundation Choir

22 May 2024

Anne Folger-Pleuger talks with us about joining the CHF Choir and the importance of volunteerism. 

What motivated you to join the choir as a volunteer? And how long have you been volunteering for?

My journey into the hospital choir began with wanting to play the piano or keyboard. However, when Lachlan and Callum arrived, I realized they were far more skilled musicians, and I shifted to singing. I've been volunteering in the choir since December of last year, and it has been an unexpectedly delightful experience.

Callum and Lachlan: Always making it fun

Can you share a memorable experience or moment that you've had while volunteering in the choir?

Yes! It was Christmas. We visited several wards to sing carols for the patients and staff. The atmosphere was magical, and the music was warmly received by everyone. A particularly touching moment was when we met a couple at the Information Hub who visited daily. The wife had dementia, and her husband was always by her side. When we sang in her ward, she recognised me and started waving. She even remembered the words to our song, and the sparkle in her eyes was unforgettable. It was a truly heartwarming moment that showed us the power of music and connection.

How do you think the staff feel about the music and singing that's happening around them?

The patients and staff seem to genuinely appreciate our singing. Many stop to listen, smile, and even sit down to enjoy the music. It's wonderful to see the joy and relaxation our music brings to everyone around us.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the choir as an accidental singer?

I love being part of the choir because it provides a structured "me" time. Every Monday afternoon, I log off work and head to choir practice. The group is fantastic, filled with laughter, thanks in large part to Lachlan and Callum, who keep things lively and fun. I always look forward to it.

In what ways do you think the choir contributes to the hospital community as a whole?

Though not widely known, our choir aims to bring joy and comfort through our performances. Singing in the foyer helps raise awareness about the choir's existence and its positive impact on the hospital community.

Choir members delight passers by in Canberra Hospital's Main Foyer

What sort of positive changes have you noticed in yourself since joining the choir?

Since joining, I've felt more relaxed and happier. Choir practice has been a great boost for my mental health, reinforcing the idea that music is therapeutic.

What would you say to encourage others to come along and volunteer their time for the hospital choir?

I would say, "Just come along on Monday afternoons at 5:30. We'll be waiting for you." It's a wonderful group with lots of laughs, and it's genuinely fun. Everyone looks forward to it.

What about some of the other performance engagements you have?

During Christmas, we performed carols in various wards and the main foyer. We're also planning to participate in community days and performances in the new Critical Services Building. The choir sang with Leo Sayer a few years ago, I hope that happens again! That would be amazing!

How would you describe the value of volunteering, especially in the context of the Canberra Hospital Foundation choir?

Volunteering is about giving your time and giving back to the community. It's incredibly rewarding and a social asset. Donating time is just as valuable as donating money or goods. Through volunteering, you can make lifelong friends and feel a deep sense of fulfillment.

Anne can't wait for Monday nights and her 'Me' time

A Personal Note:

On a personal note, my mother, who lives in Germany, is also in a choir. When I told her I joined, she was over the moon. Every Sunday. I talk to her and she asks, “how was choir”? 

Volunteering in the hospital choir has been a beautiful journey of connection, joy, and personal growth. If you're considering it, take the plunge. You might just find it as enriching and heartwarming as I have.

No auditions or experience necessary - just your time and passion! 

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