Even those fluent in British Sign Language (BSL) would find it difficult to translate famous lyrics such as Queen’s ‘Scaramouche, Scaramouche’ or The Spice Girls ‘Zigga-zig-ahhhh’ – so imagine having to sign a whole song, in time with the music with an audience watching your every move.
It turns there’s hundreds of people across the country up for the challenge.
Two police officers were part of the 16-strong signing choir whose efforts paid off last weekend as they were hailed champions at the National Signing Competition.
Phoenix Signing Choir was established in 2017 and is made up of people from all walks of life; from funeral directors to teachers, van drivers to detectives. Some members are deaf or hard of hearing, but most have no previous sign language experience; they were brought together through the enjoyment of learning a new skill and ended up as ‘a big bunch of friends’.
Having taken up learning BSL as a hobby, DC Helen McLoughlin signed up to the choir as a means of maintaining her skill. Alongside her day job as a detective within the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), Helen is now the Choir Master and has recruited fellow Leicestershire Police colleague DS Alison King. Within their policing roles, both women are dedicated Police Link Officers for the Deaf (PLOD). They help in providing communication support or act as a point of contact in a variety of incidents including: front desk enquiries, scene of the crime, crime prevention matters or progress updates for victims of crime.
Last year the ‘little community choir’ came second in their first ever national competition, so being named winners this year left them ‘stunned, amazed and thrilled’.
The competition was held on Saturday 18 May at Caird Hall, Dundee. Following the 10-hour coach trip, the Nottinghamshire-based choir signed two songs; The Living Years – Mike & the Mechanics and The Fight Song – Rachel Platten. Choir master Helen translated the lyrics into meaning, rather than word-for-word.
“All I asked was that they all gave as much energy as they could and have big smiles on their faces – I’m so proud of every single one of them.” said Helen.
“We’ve got the trophy but it’s still not sunk in that we’ve gone from weekly rehearsals in our little church to winning this National competition. Next year’s event is being held in London, so after the celebrations we’ll be looking at what we need to do to retain our title.”