Sam Abrahams – La La Choirs
‘Sitting on a grandstand, beating on a tin can, who can, we can, nobody else can!’
It may not have been the most musical ‘war cry’ at sports day, but when our school raised their voice in unison – all 1500 voices – something happened. It was a ‘hair on the back of the neck’ moment that made us feel invincible.
There’s no denying that music and singing is good for us. Research shows that when people sing as part of a group, magic happens, creating a feeling of closeness and community. Humans are wired for music, most of us having listened, in some form or another, since birth. Studies show that music can improve our mood, fend off depression, improve blood flow and lower stress-related hormones.
As someone who loves a good ‘singsong’, I was looking forward to catching up with Sam Abrahams, director of La La Choirs, for a chat and a cuppa at Grow Coffee House. One thing that shone through, during our time together, is Sam’s compassion and determination to help others. In fact, Sam recently raised over £7300.00 for Cancer Research by promising to shave her head if she hit her target (£5000). Needless to say, she stuck to her word!
She chose something that she wouldn’t enjoy doing so that people would know she was serious about raising money. She remarked,
`I’m really fortunate to have the choice to have done this to raise some money….when you lose your hair through chemo, you lose all your hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and everything. I know from talking with ladies that I would consider my friends and my family that the worst thing in the world is completely losing all your hair. It is a massive part of your identity.’
And one of the many reasons that Sam is passionate about raising funds for cancer charities, such as Cancer Research and CLIC Sargent.
Sam has always loved singing and playing the piano but coming from a working-class background, never dreamt that she would literally ‘sing for her supper’ one day. She started out as a commercial manager for Wetherspoon, looking after the South of England, London and South Wales. Wetherspoon offered her a move from the South East to the South West, and at the time, she was leading a Jazz Trio, getting gigs around London and the Kent area. On arriving in Devon, she looked but found nothing similar to the jazz scene in the South East, so she started searching for choirs instead.
“I couldn’t find one, not even a church choir, so I basically moaned about it for a year!’
She’d made friends with other mothers at the village school by this stage; one of the ladies responded to her ‘moaning’ saying,
‘Well, start your own then!’
So, she did!
Eighteen people turned up on the first night, which a year later, had grown to seventy-five. Today, the choir has around 330 members, with branches in Exeter, Exmouth, Ottery and Plymouth and Sam has been able to dedicate herself full-time to the business of singing.
She writes a lot of the musical arrangements herself and says that she feels so lucky that she’s able to have moments of inspiration creatively, which in turn can be brought to life by the wonderful people in her choir. She added,
‘Who doesn’t want a job like that?’
I asked Sam about the passion that drives her to raise funds for charity, which, on checking the La La Choirs website, totals over £150 000. 00. No mean feat.
She replied that she feels blessed to do something she loves, she’s living the life that she wants to live; many people don’t get to do that.
Most of La La Choir’s performances tend to be for charity rather than commercial with Sam saying,
‘It’s a privilege, I feel like my concerts are a pay it forward for the fortunate position I’m in’.
On whether people have to audition to join the choir, Sam replied,
She went on to explain that La La’s ethos is that they never pretend to be perfect with technique or following the music to the letter, the crucial thing is that people enjoy it. She continued,
‘You don’t have to have experience, you don’t have to read music and there are varying levels of ability in a choir. If somebody wants to have a go at solo, they can have a go solo, it’s an amazing experience’.
La La is like a family and is open to everybody over the age of 18. While there is definitely a place for choirs that require auditions, most people have busy and challenging lives and just want to go and have a ‘bit of a blast’. There is nothing like standing together with a group of like-minded people and singing. She describes her choir as a ‘microcosm of life’, where there are many highs but also the lows that are often an inevitable ‘side effect’ of living.
The choir is a tight knit community, where the members take care of each other, a ‘happy safe space for people to come and let off steam’. Sam said,
‘I know how important it is to have somewhere where you can go and just let it all hang out, for just a couple of hours a week’.
She added that it’s most important that people enjoy themselves and even if they aren’t able to attend every practice, they can dip in and out as it suits them.
If you would like to find out more or want to get in touch with Sam, pop on to the website: lalachoirs.co.uk
Written by Stella Nicholls
Photos supplied by Sam Abrahams