Dee-Sign, the sign language choir creating waves in Chester
PUBLISHED: 15:52 05 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:09 20 February 2013
A choir with a difference is creating waves in Cheshire. Emma Mayoh reports
If Kate and William need any last minute inspiration for their big day later this month, they could do worse than to follow the lead of Cheshire brides and grooms. Chester sign language choir, Dee-Sign, already have a handful of bookings for weddings at prestigious venues this year.
Their appearance at ceremonies hasnt just been requested by deaf people but also by hearing couples who have been moved by one of their performances around the county.
Some people are so touched by what we do, they start crying, said Anne Hesketh, choir director. It is a very beautiful thing to watch.
We have already got quite a lot of bookings this year. There was one time we would have to go out looking for bookings but now people come to us. A wedding is a particularly nice thing to do. One couple want to help us raise money and for us to benefit from their wedding.
Dee-Sign, which is run as a charity, is one of just a few signing choirs in the country. The 60 members, aged between eight and 68, perform British Sign Language to a catalogue of more than 20 songs from Christmas classics to pop songs and tunes from musicals. All the songs have to be translated into British Sign Language before the choir start to learn performing them to a recording of the music. As well as their weekly rehearsals in Chester, they also use DVD recordings of the translated music to practice at home.
Dee-Sign Choir was set up in 1997 to put on shows at Christmas as a way of raising money for the Chester and District Committee for Deaf People of the Volunteers in Partnership group. It brought a lot of money in so it was decided the choir should perform all year around. It is now the single largest fundraiser for the committee.
The membership is a mixture of deaf people, relatives of people with hearing problems, people with learning difficulties, care workers and British Sign Language students who want to increase their vocabulary.
Originally it was set up to raise money because lots of deaf clubs were closing around the country, said Anne. We just werent getting enough money in to keep the place going. But people now get involved because its fun to sign to music too.
The choir has definitely made people more deaf aware too which was important to me. Just because you are deaf doesnt mean you cant enjoy music like this. It has also meant that deaf people are able to share the experience with their hearing children.
The choir have performed around the county and this year they will appear at the Cheshire Show for the first time. But the highlight so far has been taking home the top prize in the open class at the Jersey Eisteddfod at the end of the last year. They performed I Will Follow Him from the musical Sister Act, and their encore caused the first standing ovation in the competitions history. They are hoping to compete again this year, if they can raise the money.
We couldnt believe wed won, said Anne. At most we thought we would have a nice stay in Jersey and just decided we were going to enjoy the experience. It had just been taking part that was important to us and we were so surprised when we won. It was amazing.
Anne, who at 68 is the oldest member, said as well as having patience you also have to have a good sense of humour, particularly when it comes to choosing new songs. But she loves every minute of it.
She said: I had a go at translating Bohemian Rhapsody once because a member wanted to try and do it. You may be able to translate it but then can you keep up with the music. I mean what sign would you use for scaramouche? Its great fun though.
I love music and I love sign language. We do have a lot of fun, we are like a big family.