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Relatively Speaking: We chat to Breege and Fonsie Corr

On song: Breege Corr and her father Fonsie
On song: Breege Corr and her father Fonsie
The Open Arts Community Choir

Singer and civil servant Breege Corr, from Belfast, has been a member of the Open Arts Community Choir since it was set up in September 2000. Her dad Fonsie, a retired bank manager, is a board member of the choir, which has released its third album

Name: Breege Corr

Age: 42

Occupation: Civil servant

Relationship to Fonsie: Daughter

I was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and it is on the severe end of the scale so I have been in a wheelchair all of my life. It hasn't restricted me in any way, though. One of the things about my dad - and all my family - is that he has always encouraged me to be independent and have as good a quality of life as I can.

I had always enjoyed singing as a child, but when I left school I stopped, until 14 years ago when my good friend Beverley Whyte set up the Open Arts Community Choir and asked me to join.

I love it and am totally addicted to singing. We rehearse on Monday nights and especially at this time of the year, when you have the Monday Blues and wake up to a dark morning, it's great to know that I have choir practice that night. You get to sing some great songs, to spend time with friends and have a laugh.

When I was about five, a massive dog chased me and frightened the living daylights out of me. It left me with an awful fear of dogs. The first night I went to the choir there were four visually-impaired people there with guide dogs and I just froze. I didn't want to stay and I couldn't concentrate on singing because I was so frightened.

I told Beverley at the end that I probably wouldn't come back but she encouraged me and because I didn't want to let her down, I returned. Now I'm glad to say that the guide dogs have helped me overcome my fear.

My parents have been really supportive and come to see our performances and have accompanied us when we travel.

A few years ago dad joined the board of Open Arts. As a retired bank manager he has had lots of ideas for fundraising and has lots of contacts which, with all the cutbacks to the arts, we need now more than ever. I think he's great for getting out there to raise money for us. I know people talk about daughters being their daddy's girl and, yes, I probably would be.

Dad is very sociable; he likes a good night out and having friends round and he has encouraged me to do the same and have a good social life, which I do."

Name: Fonsie Corr

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired bank manager

Relationship to Breege: Father

Breege is more independent than we ever thought or hoped she would be. When she was born we were told she would not live beyond the age of four - she is now 42 and has a full and happy life.

The choir has been a lifeline for her. With all the performances and fundraising events they do, it is almost a full-time commitment, especially at this time of the year. Beverley, who founded the choir, was Breege's best friend at Fleming Fulton School, in Belfast, and also has spina bifida. She is an extraordinary person and talent.

Open Arts is about helping people with a disability to realise their full potential and the choir is part of that, so when Beverley asked me to get involved, needless to say because of my own daughter I was happy to support it.

The choir has progressed amazingly and last week launched its third CD. Every time they perform its like they have gone up two notches.

My wife Mary and I help out when they are travelling. I'm happy to be taxi driver if needed on a Monday night and have become the person who looks after the guide dogs.

It has been tremendous for Breege; she is very happy and proud of the choir and we are all very proud of her.

Everyone keeps in contact with each other and all the members help and support one another. On stage the able bodied members look after the disabled members.

I am happy to try and fundraise when I can and would be out with the buckets at this time of the year. I get talking to people and when they hear about the good work of the choir, instead of putting a pound in they usually put in a fiver; one person even gave me £50.

Breege is just brilliant. I remember one day helping her get ready for work and she just turned to me and said 'Daddy, sure life couldn't be better'. That's Breege and her sunny outlook!"

A record success ...

  • Open Arts Choir has members with and without disabilities, aged from 17 to 70
  • The choir meets every Monday night from 7.15-9.15pm in Divis Community Centre, Belfast
  • Three years ago the choir launched its critically acclaimed album, Going Global,
  • New album Three is available to buy from, from Amazon and to download from iTunes UK

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