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Sign Language Choir Appeals For Helping Hands

Sign Language Choir Appeals For Helping Hands

A fledgling choir which signs rather than sings its songs is appealing for helping hands.

‘Fingers United’ is a new choir – some deaf or hard of hearing, some not – who meet weekly at Manchester Deaf Centre to perform popular songs using British Sign Language.

Set up in April, the group is the brainchild of volunteer Wednesday Jones who devotes her spare time to translating songs to bring music to life for the d/Deaf Community.

With a back catalogue including Don’t Look Back in Anger, Stairway to Heaven and the Blues Brothers’ Shake Your Tail Feather, choir practice is never dull – and nothing is out of bounds.

Wednesday, a former fencing champion who won silver at the Commonwealth Veterans’ Fencing Championship in 2009, said: “A lot of people who translate songs do it word for word, but for some lyrics there are no signs, like ‘shang-a-lang’ or ‘boogaloo’, so you have to be creative. It’s about trying to work out how to do that in a way that still keeps the essence of the song and can be understood and enjoyed by the d/Deaf audience.

“It’s a common misconception that deaf people don’t like music. If they can hear, with or without aids, they like the music and can often feel the vibrations; if they can’t hear at all then lyrics are delivered like poetry.

It takes me about eight hours to get each song ready to perform, but I love doing it. I don’t see why, just because you have a disability, you should be denied the pleasure of things others take for granted.

“It takes me about eight hours to get each song ready to perform, but I love doing it. I don’t see why, just because you have a disability, you should be denied the pleasure of things others take for granted.”

Wednesday, 50, was prompted to learn BSL out of curiosity after seeing two deaf people arguing, but soon got hooked and is about to start Level 6 in September. She hopes to qualify as an interpreter and is getting plenty of practice, running Bolton Deaf Association’s ‘Signs and Wonders’ choir as well as working on her first BSL signed performance - Beauty and the Beast – which will be staged in Bolton in the new year.

The litigation executive, who lives in Whitefield and works in the wills, trusts, tax and probate team at law firm Slater and Gordon in Manchester, also has her own YouTube channel where she uploads practice sessions and her performances – from Shakespeare to Linkin Park.

She added: “You do Level 1 BSL because it’s interesting; you do Level 2 to learn a bit more about the language and how it works, and by the time you finish Level 3 you realise you’re part of the d/Deaf Community and there’s no going back!”

“Sign language choirs are fun, but it’s also good practice. You don’t need to know how to sign – you can deliver a song in BSL even if you aren’t fluent – but that’s the thing about sign language; as soon as you start you want to learn more and become part of a large and welcoming community.”

Both choirs have Facebook pages - ‘Fingers United Sign Choir’ or ‘Signs and Wonders Sign Choir’ – or for more information email wednesday.jones@slatergordon.co.uk.  

To watch Wednesday perform search ‘Wednesday Jones BSL’ on YouTube.