A women’s singing group that began as a six-week trial in Langtoft Village Hall now has 250 members in six locations.
A Handful Of Harmonies sessions are now held weekly in Stamford, Bourne, Market Deeping, Peterborough and Spalding, as well as Langtoft, and a new group will open in Oundle in the new year.
Founder and choir director Andrew Clingo says the demand has been “insane, just crackers” since the first singing workshop in July last year.
Andrew, 37, of Barleyfield, Langtoft,has been musical director of the popular drama group Langtoft Players since he was 15.
“A group of ladies from last year’s summer show wanted to carry on singing. The word spread and I knew around 40 would turn up - but there were 60, the other 20 just appeared,” he said.
He started the Bourne group the following week.
A natural voice practitioner and registered British Voice Association teacher, Andrew says the idea is purely to sing for pleasure.
The women, aged 16 to 70, recently made a CD of the Lloyd Webber/Gary Barlow Jubilee Song. Some of them performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in October and they have been asked to return in December.
They are now busy rehearsing their West End repertoire. Andrew also has a full diary of concerts and private appearances for the next few months.
“I can’t believe that one man’s little idea of singing in a little village hall has spread so widely,” he said.
The former singing teacher is now working full-time running the workshops.
“What started as a hobby has now taken over my life. I’m so passionate about music, it really is like a dream come true,” said Andrew.
The women themselves spread news of the workshops and have gained radio spots and newspaper coverage - Andrew has done no serious marketing of his own.
There are already plans to expand into Oakham and he has had inquiries from Holbeach and Billingborough.
“We’re running out of time slots. I don’t want it to become a corporate franchised thing, it’s personal and I think its success could be because of that,” said Andrew, who is training an assistant in case he is ill at any time.
There is also a children’s group, for ages seven to 15, called A Handful of Harminies, which meets just at Langtoft at the moment.
The emphasis is on fun and there is a valuable social element to the women’s workshops, some of them claiming it has helped them through illness, bereavement and loneliness.
But Andrew is adamant that Gareth Malone-type fame is not for him.
He said: “I just love singing and making people smile.”