Stefanie Cayless has been volunteering for the North London choir for 4 years, as a musical volunteer.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START VOLUNTEERING FOR THE CHOIR WITH NO NAME?
I first heard about the choir through a friend of mine who had seen CWNN perform at a charity gig, told me how emotional the event was and I was curious to find out more. That night I saw an article about the choir in The Big Issue, I contacted Marie to ask if I could come down and help with the warm up as I had just started running choirs – she kindly agreed.
The night I came down was lively and full of the most diverse, interesting characters I have ever met. I spent the whole night just watching people; I don’t think I sang a single note. I remember seeing Richard sing a Christmassy Elvis number and I just cried the whole way through. You could see the joy beaming from people in that moment.
After frankly pestering Marie and refusing to leave, I became a bone-fide CWNN volunteer with a T-Shirt to prove it. I started as an all rounder, helping to organise gigs, shaking buckets at events and cooking and now am the assistant director for the North London choir. I’m learning every week and it has changed my life, my outlook on society and has given a career direction - I’m such a proud CWNN’er!
PLEASE TELL US YOUR THREE FAVOURITE THINGS ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.
- People! We are lucky enough to share our Monday evenings with the most amazing people from all walks of life
- Experience! Volunteering for the Choir with No Name has given me valuable skills that I have taken into other areas of work.
- Food! It’s delicious and always covered in cheese which is exactly what you need on a cold Monday night!
HAS THERE BEEN AN UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT? WHAT WAS IT?
One moment that stands out is in 2010 when I had just joined the choir. We were lucky enough to support Coldplay at The Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool as part of the Crisis Christmas tour. The choir's performance was stunning and very emotional.
Afterwards we all went into the audience to watch the Coldplay set, I looked around at some point and saw a wide-eyed choir full to brimming with pride at what they had just achieved. People were arms-in-arm, swaying away with lots of teary eyes.
Adel (a choir member) gave me a big hug and said, "Welcome to the family, Stef". Well, Choir with No Name should be sponsored by Kleenex is all I’m saying...!
HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY?
I think the challenges for me personally have been to do with confidence; to direct a Choir with No Name would be one of my goals so I have to work hard on learning different techniques and learning more about music to get to where I want to be. Good challenges though.
In terms of the other volunteering there haven’t been that many, whatever issues are going on in your day to day life seem to shift when you walk in the door.
AND WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT VOLUNTEERING FOR US?
I work as a support worker in London for vulnerable adults and adults with learning disabilities alongside singing in other choirs.
I love painting too. Oh yeah and I’m learning to be a chocolatier, which means I am now very, very popular and everyone greets me with the loveliest of smiles (and open hands)!
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Just a massive thank you to everyone for making this experience what it is and to anyone who is interested in volunteering – DO IT! We can’t wait to meet you!
A FEW WORDS FROM EMMA, THE CHOIR'S MANAGER...
"Stef is one our longest serving volunteers and has been an absolute star find for Choir with No Name North London. Not only is she an all-round lovely person (an essential criteria for any Choir with No Name volunteer!), she's an incredible singer and has pitched in over the years with leading warm-ups at rehearsals as well as recently leading full rehearsals for us.
When she's not busy being amazing in the rehearsal room she's always happy to roll her sleeves up and get stuck in with the washing up or helping with some food prep too. Stef - thank you for everything you've done for Choir with No Name over the years. You're an absolute star!!"
If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch to find out more – our choir managers will be delighted to hear from you!