Em Trigger’s face breaks into a beaming smile when describing why she loves being part of an all abilities singing group.
“I have a passion for music and we found this choir and I’m just loving it – it has been amazing,” the 36-year-old says.
“I just feel so special – singing makes you light up.
“The whole world just goes away and you are just in this different place.”
Quietly spoken Em joined the Local Vocals All Abilities Choir at the encouragement of her occupational therapist Nicole Clark.
She is one of an enthusiatic and eclectic group of choir members who meet every Monday – for different reasons – to fill the TIA Hall in Torquay with song and positivity
Standing at the front of the hall, with microphone and song sheet in hand, is Dianne Makings.
Local Vocals is Di’s “baby”.
The Torquay mum-of-two has been singing professionally for 30 years and is well known locally for her work as a vocal coach and her performances in many bands, musicals and theatre groups.
But she says starting the all abilities choir is her best achievement yet.
“It just makes my heart sing – it’s the best thing I have ever done to be honest,” she says, her voice tinged with emotion.
“It makes me want to cry even talking about it.”
Di started Local Vocals last year in the hope it would open a new avenue for people to form friendships and feel welcomed into the fold.
It’s an all-inclusive environment with no age limit and no judgement of a person’s natural singing ability.
The group attracts women – and a few men so far – of all ages and from all around the region.
“I’ve been so rapt with the numbers,” Di says.
“I am far from an expert but I hope to give every member of our choir the ability to transform their lives for the better – bridging the gap between withdrawal and awareness, isolation and interaction.”
Di’s enthusiasm is infectious as she encourages her choir members with statements such as “How good did that sound?” and “That was awesome!” as they harmonise to songs such as I Am Woman, Stand By Me and California Dreamin’.
Di has been working with special needs students for the past seven years and has seen first-hand the amazing benefits music can have.
“Music is such a universal language yet it can be interpreted so differently – this creates such a unique connection,” she says.
“Singing along to a song can change your mood in just a few seconds.
“It puts a smile on your face as you feel every word you’re singing.”
Geelong teenager Aimee Miller can attest to that.
The 19-year-old is a proud member of Local Vocals and makes the trip to Torquay with her carer each week.
At first Aimee comes across as quite shy but put her in front of the camera and her star quality shines through in an instant.
“I like singing, acting and dancing – it helps me clear my mind,” she says, sitting on the stage that overlooks the hall.
“I just love what I’m doing.”
Jenny Baker, a music teacher, says her reason for joining the choir was simply to do something that was just for her.
“It’s a non-threatening environment that welcomes everyone and Di is absolutely amazing,” she says.
“It can be intimidating to sing out loud but here everyone is really accommodating of the odd squawk.
“It’s for the pure love of singing rather than being perfect.”
Fellow singer Janelle Polwarth agrees and says she would love to see even more people join in the fun.
“I have always wanted to be in a singing group myself but just never found one until now,” Janelle says.
“We always walk away happy and glowing and on top of the world to be honest.”
Michelle Mahoney says Local Vocals is the highlight of her week.
“As a mum you want something for yourself for your own enjoyment,” she says.
“I did choir at high school … then I hadn’t sung since but I just love it.”
The group is currently working towards some public appearances, including getting into the Christmas spirit at the annual Torquay Carols by the Sea.
But for now, they are enjoying each other’s company and the joy of making music together.
“I just want you to enjoy it and not feel stressed out that you can’t sing it,” Di tells her singers before they break into song once again.
“We don’t want to be fussy here.”
New members are always welcome at Local Vocals All Abilities Choir. The group meets every Monday of the school term (excluding public holidays) at the Torquay Improvement Association Hall at 8-12 Price Street. The first class is free and then $10 per week. Contact Di on 0438 614 308, look them up on Facebook or follow on Instagram @localvocals3228.