Toby Barnett, first year Mathematics student and Bass in Gonville and Caius College Choir, has found that rehearsals and services have become a welcome addition to a sometimes stressful academic workload.
Music and particularly singing have often been a part of Toby’s life. Growing up in the Lincolnshire countryside, he found a love for music, and got involved in all sorts of musical opportunities, from the school concerts and musicals, to singing with entertainment companies.
“I wasn’t very familiar with choral music before I came here, but spending time rehearsing and performing with a group of people who also love music and singing feels very special,” he says.
The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week, which is taking place from May 8 to 15, is raising awareness of loneliness.
Toby describes the strong support system he has found as a member of the choir.
“Some people might think the choir can be stressful in terms of timetabling, commitment or pressure but ultimately the choir is a collective and everyone will help you out,” he adds.
Aside from the sense of community and support, choir has also become a welcome distraction from the stresses of academic life for Toby.
He says: “At University, especially Cambridge, academic pressure really ramps up, and the standard that you have to work to is just so high. All the courses here are hard and it is easy to think ‘am I good enough for this?’
“But choir has been really helpful to my mental health. It is a part of my routine I really look forward to - where I can reset, relax and just have a good time. It allows me to put aside my academic worries and focus on something completely different.”
The choir also has a zero-phone policy in the chapel which Toby describes as “a relief”.
“It is great opportunity to get off my phone, put it away and enjoy something else. Time flies by,” he says.
This July, the choir will be touring Menorca before returning to the UK to record an album of music by Peter Philips and Richard Dering. For more information and updates about the choir visit: www.gonvilleandcaiuschoir.com and follow them on social media.
By Stephanie Waldron
The University of Cambridge is holding a series of events and activities during Mental Health Awareness Week. Please see the University website for more information.
You can also find further information about mental health and support at: https://www.mind.org.uk