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...in fact 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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Ally Avery (She/They) General Committee Member

Hey, I’m Ally and I’ve been with Northern Proud Voices since September 2021. I sing with the awesome Altos, although I am known for occasionally flitting to the Tenors for the odd song. 

 

Why did You Join NPV?

I always wanted to join a community choir so when I heard about Northern Proud Voices from a friend, I was excited to become a member. I was looking for a fun and creative group that brought me closer to the LGBTQ+ community, with music at its heart. Joining NPV has been the best decision I made since the end of lockdown; the warmth and encouragement I have experienced from my choir family has been incredibly validating and Thursday evenings have become the highlight of my week!

 

What have been your personal highlights to date since being a member of NVP?

There are so many highlights for me! I have grown in confidence since joining the choir. I never imagined in a million years that I would end up singing on stage for Newcastle Pride, but I did just that in 2022. Every performance has been such an amazing experience – collaborating with Curious Arts, performing Christmas songs at St Nicholas Cathedral and St Chads for Durham Pride to name a few. The real highlight for me so far this year was seeing the smiling faces of the children watching from the ward window as we sang at the RVI for Pride History Month.

 

What are my favourite songs to sing?

Born to Glory was one of my favourites from last year, I also loved the Hadrian songs that were written especially for us. So far this year, I am loving Big River. When we sing A Cappella during the chorus I feel goosebumps! Running up That Hill is another current favourite, there’s so much passion in that song and we sing it so beautifully.

 

What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking about joining NPV?

Come and see what we are all about, you won’t look back! You don’t have to sing like Celine Dion or Pavarotti – just bring your fabulous self because our choir family will welcome you just the way you are, so come and give it a go!

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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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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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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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