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We're lovely (if we do say so ourselves!) and when you become part of our choir family you'll meet lots of interesting, friendly and welcoming people. Sometimes, though, it's nice to put a face to a name, so here are a few you might like to know. 

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Jon Szunko - Musical Director

Jon Szunko - Musical Director

Jon joined NPV as a bass in 2016, and is now delighted to, once again, step up as MD!

 

Jon first dabbled in music, as so many of us do, by horrifying his parents by attempting to play the recorder as a child. He graduated onto the clarinet not soon after, progressing eventually into university where he left with a top degree in music. Jon has not stopped terrifying people with his music since and has even managed to carve out a career as a secondary school music teacher, where he has learnt the best way to keep hold of an audience is to put them in a classroom with the threat of detention if they try to leave. 

 

Jon believes music should be first and foremost about fun. If you are not enjoying the music making, then what’s the point!? Community is also at the heart of his philosophy when it comes to music and Jon strives to make it accessible for all. Music is too often seen as a pastime of the privileged and rich. Not all of us were lucky enough to have access to music lessons and instruments when we were younger and too many people, therefore, decide that they can’t do music, when in fact music is an inherent part of us all that we just need to learn to tap into.

 

At Northern Proud Voices Jon aims to create an inclusive, fun environment where we can all have some fun making noise, learning more about music as we go. Jon believes it is no coincidence that the more fun we have, the better the sounds we tend to make.

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Andrew Richardson Accompanist

Northern Proud Voices had their first rehearsal on Friday 25th March 2011 and Andrew Richardson played piano for us. He's been with us from the very beginning and we're happy to tell you that eight years later he's still supporting choir as a singing tutor and accompanist. Andrew said, "I have very much enjoyed accompanying Northern Proud Voices and watching them grow and evolve as a choir." He lives in South Shields and works as a peripatetic pianist for many Primary Schools in the South Tyneside area. He has written several musicals for children which have been performed all around the borough. Andrew is also the resident pianist for popular singing group 'Encore' who perform at the Customs House twice a year. He loves all styles of music but admittedly his favourite genre is musical theatre.

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Our Committee

Our hard working committee are passionate about Northern Proud Voices and are dedicated to making sure we are a vibrant, sustainable community choir. The committee are very approachable and welcome anyone's input and suggestions from all.

Kathleen MacDonald (She/Her) - Chair

Kath MacDonald, Alto, I have been in choir since 2011

Over the years I have been an ordinary committee member, secretary and Chair.  In September 2020 I was re-elected as the current Chair of NPV.

Why did you join Northern Proud Voices?  

Because Sam (below) talked me into it, so glad I listened to her for once!

What have been your personal highlights to date since being a member in Northern Proud Voices? 

There have been many, from Hand in Hand Festivals, Pride performances to collecting the Building a Stronger LGBT+ Community Award in 2017 at the North East LGBT Awards.

What are your favourite songs to sing that are in Northern Proud Voices back catalogue?

'This is Me’ - The Greatest Showman, 'Born This Way' - Lady Gaga and 'Spice Girl Megamix' - Spice Girls/NPV

What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking of joining Northern Proud Voices?  

Go for it!!  You’ll love it!

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Kate Husband (She/Her) - Secretary

Hi I am Kate and an Alto.  I have been in the choir since 2022.

Why did you join Northern Proud Voices?  

I had just moved back to Newcastle during Covid after being away for many years and I knew as soon as the choir re-started I would be joining.  I knew I needed to find and be part of an LGBT+ community that was safe and supportive and met regularly, more than monthly, so that I could start to build a circle of friends and social activities. I also love music and although I have never sung or been in a choir before I knew that singing with other people can be such an uplifting and positive experience.  So I joined the choir; an amazing LGBT+ community + singing = I Found My Tribe = Happy Me.... and I love it.  

What have been your personal highlights to date since being a member in Northern Proud Voices? A. The People - it is such a welcoming, gloriously varied and amazing bunch of people to meet up with each week.  B. My First concert at Durham Pride - such a great day and I was surprised at how nervous I was but I was giddy as a kipper afterwards.  C. Being accepted onto the committee, it's amazing what can happen in a year.

What are your favourite songs to sing that are in Northern Proud Voices back catalogue?

I don't have a back catalogue as yet but over the last year my stand out songs have been; Born To Glory, Its a Sin and the Hadrian set of songs specially written for us for the 1500 Anniversary of Hadrians Wall.

What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking of joining Northern Proud Voices?  

Just Do It - It might feel a bit strange at first and you may feel a bit unsure but just keep coming, people will help you, there is no pressure, no audition, no pressure to perform and you don't have to read music.   I didn't know anyone at first but promised myself to just keep going, I went to the pub afterwards every week and people were so friendly. Eventually it just clicks and you feel part of an amazing group of people and the buzz you get is fab and 'Hey Ho' 1 year later I have an amazing bunch of friends, my social life has improved dramatically and I am now on the committee..  Best thing I have done for years.

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Simon Devlin-Bell (He/Him) - Treasurer

Hi I’m Simon, the short, bald, bearded and be-speckled southerner, usually to be found somewhere in the middle of the Tenors desperately trying release my inner diva at the right time!

Why did you join Northern Proud Voices?

I joined Northern Proud Voices in 2022 because after working from home for a couple of years with the pandemic, I needed to get out there with real people and do something different.

What have been your personal highlights to date since being a member in Northern Proud Voices?

Newcastle Pride 2022.  And not being nervous about the performance because I was there with my choir family.

What are your favourite songs to sing that are in Northern Proud Voices back catalogue?  

It’s got to be Survivor by Destiny’s Child - what a tune!

 

What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking of joining Northern Proud Voices?

Just do it!  It’s not as scary as you think; it’s not scary at all, actually.  Everyone is welcoming and it’s really fun! Give it a go; you might just surprise yourself. 

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Jude Pickering (She/Her) General Committee Member

I can’t remember ever not singing; I’m sure I sang in the womb. I think music and singing is incredibly important for me as I suffer mentally and being part of this choir has helped me immensely. I’ve performed in the US across Europe at many choral festivals and also been a big part of a London choir the `Primadonnas’. I don’t read music but I have a good ear.

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JulieDixon

Julie Dixon (She/Her) - General Committee Member

Hi I'm Julie and  have been a member of our wonderful Choir NPV for 8 years now, 

Why did you join Northern Proud Voices?  

I have a life long love of singing especially with other people. It can be a such an uplifting experience and singing with other LGBTQI people is really special and bonding. The choir is part of my DNA now and has enabled me to make some really good pals and also sing in harmony which is always great fun!

What have been your personal highlights to date since being a member in Northern Proud Voices? 

So many great times over the years - our annual sing at the Tyneside Cinema befor the screening of “It’s a Wonderful life” has to be up there. Obviously singing loud and proud at various Pride celebrations over the years is always very life affirming and reminds us why we need our community. 

What are your favourite songs to sing that are in Northern Proud Voices back catalogue?

I will be honest I have loved singing everything we have tried. Sometimes songs take a while to “grow” on you but once they do you can’t get them out of your head. I would love to do more Annie Lennox and Queen songs in future. 

What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking of joining Northern Proud Voices?  

In the words of Bob Dylan “don’t think twice it’s all right” !! Seriously come and give it a whirl - we are a friendly bunch who love to sing and socialise - we welcome everyone and are a safe space for LGBTQi family and also straight allies! Come and give it a try ! 

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Nickey Garnier (She/Her) Choir Member

Hello I’m Nickey & I’ve been a member of NPV since October 2016. I love to sing, so It’s an important part of my life. Singing with NPV is fun and also creates opportunities for new friendships. 

Finally, I’m also one of the (+) members of this fabulously inclusive community and I wouldn’t be without it’s truly inclusive singing love! 

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Rachel Dowdeswell.jpeg

Rachel Dowdeswell (She/Her) Choir Member

Hi I’m Rachel. I joined NPV in September 2021 when I was invited along by a friend who knew I liked singing. From the first rehearsal I attended I was struck by the lovely atmosphere. Everyone is made to feel welcome, and the ‘craic’ is good!  I have sung in choirs all my life, but NPV has definitely been the most enjoyable and have made good friends there. I enjoy the musical challenge the choir presents. There is no audition or musical background required to join NPV but under Jon’s direction we reach a high musical standard. I always leave the rehearsals feeling uplifted and I find myself belting out the tunes in the car all the way home! (Don’t ask me for a lift!).

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Simon Berry (He/Him) Choir Member

I have been a member of NPV since 2014 and have loved every minute of it. It is great to be part of such a diverse and accepting group of people who make fantastic music! I always look forward to Thursday nights and catching up with a lovely bunch of people and singing my heart out. After a busy week at work, NPV is a great stress-reliever and something I always look forward to. I look forward to seeing the choir go from strength to strength in the coming months and years.

Simon Berry

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Rhys Cornell (He/Him) Choir Member

Hi, I’m Rhys and I’ve been a member of Northern Proud Voices since 2022. I’ve loved singing ever since I was a child and being a member of this choir has been an amazing experience, both musically and for making lifelong friends. I’ve never met a friendlier or more inviting group of people and I feel very lucky to be a part of the squad. 

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