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How you can tune out stress of life.

Byline: By Greg O'Keeffe

THE singing drifts through the gallery door and on to the street, where it almost stops puzzled office workers in their tracks.

Amid the growl of traffic, trilling mobile phones and bursts of conversation on Castle Street, the soothing harmonies seem slightly out of place.

But from where I'm standing in the Dot Art gallery just off Castle Street the singing, led by voice coach Su Grainger, could not be more natural.

Su is holding the first of a series of weekly lunch-hour singing classes to offer a diversion and a bout of stress-busting to city office workers.

Considering this is the first time most of the group have met, it's going smoothly and each singer grows with confidence as Su, from Litherland, shows them the basics.

Beginning with scales, via a warm-up rendition of the Dr Who theme, before long all six are doing a good version of a traditional African call and response song.

"That was uplifting," says Jayne Smith, who runs an out-sourced typing business from Old Hall Street.

"I've always enjoyed singing to myself but I've had no training and I've only sung in the junior school choir or on drunken karaoke nights.

But for me singing is therapeutic."

Debbie Edwards, a mother-of-two who runs an on-line baby product firm from her Irby home, agrees. "It can be a bit isolating working from home," she adds, still flushed from laughing after the sing-song.

"You tend to miss the office buzz, if not the politics. It's nice to come here and have a coffee, a laugh, and sing."

Debbie uses singing to relieve stress at home with daughters Jessica, six, and Maddie, four.

"Whenever things are getting a bit frantic I just put on Madonna or Girls Aloud and the three of us jump around to it."

Su has been running singing groups for years and is also a firm believer in the power of song. "Singing is a very bonding experience in a group," she says. "It can be quite emotional too.

Sometimes a song can have someone in a group in tears.

"Everyone has an in-built relationship with singing. Either they feel comfortable doing it or they don't because someone has told them they can't sing or to stop it. But everyone can sing.

"Nobody has to audition for this group. We'll be happy to accept any body who wants to sing, make some new friends and even network.

"We will do the African classic songs, but we'll do Liverpool classics too like Ferry 'Cross The Mersey and In My Liverpool Home.

"The course will involve learning about four or five songs and then finish offwith a performance for the group's work colleagues and friends. It's a fantastic way to do something totally different in your lunch hour."

Anita Harwood, 34, has already caught the singing bug. Just an hour before the session the design boss from Allerton was persuaded to try the singing club.

"I'm glad I did," she says. "I'm really busy in work and I feel more chilled out already. It's just nice to be away from the desk."

The Summer Singing In The City sessions take place every Tuesday at the Dot-Art gallery in Queen Avenue, Castle Street, pounds 5. For details contact Su on 07717 181 826 or dot-art.com on 0845 017 6660.

IT MIGHT not be every bloke's preferred way to spend their lunch hour.

And I've got to admit I prefer to keep my singing to the shower - mainly for the benefit of my family. (Well, the Z-Cars theme belted out ad infinitumcan probably become a little bit irritating).

But I was genuinely impressed by the fact that the people who took part in Summer Singing In The City seemed to be having so much fun.

Instead of treading the same stretch of city in search of a sandwich they were meeting new people, making business contacts and - above all - doing something they would never normally do ... singing their hearts out.

It seems that stepping out of your comfort zone can leave you feeling exhilarated on a dreary Tuesday afternoon.

And although I'd put them uchmocked X Factor losers to shame with my tonal deafness, next time I may even give it a go.

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Greg O'Keeffe; CHOIR GIRLS: SuGrainger leads a lunchtime singing session
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2008
Words:723
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