Richard Whennell, a music teacher in the English town of Bracknell, had wanted to start a community choir for years. It wasn't until the American television show "Glee" hit British shores that he decided to take action.
...On the show, a motley crew of high school students join forces to form a small choir, or glee club. Richard wanted to create a similar chance for his neighbors—a place for people to come together to sing their favorite songs.
Along with his wife Melissa, also a musician and teacher, Richard started thinking about the best way to promote the group. Initially, they considered distributing leaflets and fliers around their neighborhood, but concluded that involved a lot of work without guaranteed success. "I didn't want to go out and print a whole bunch of fliers and hire a hall if there was going to be no support," said Richard.
Melissa suggested they try a Facebook group, and the initial response was exciting. Within 24 hours, the Bracknell Glee Club group had almost 40 members.
"This looks fantastic!" wrote one member on the group's wall, "I cannot wait for this to start!"
Encouraged by the interest, Richard searched for a venue and created a Facebook event for the first meeting on March 4. By that point, the group had swelled to 100 members.
The first sessions of the Bracknell Glee Club have been a resounding success. Between 40 and 50 people, aged anywhere between 12 to 74, now meet regularly to sing songs like "Don't Stop Believin" and "Never Gonna Give You Up." Melissa says the club's aim is to promote the idea that everyone can sing, while also making people feel good about themselves and their community.
The group is still attracting people on Facebook and now has more than 200 members. It allows Richard and Melissa to let people know about arrangements and rehearsal details, and more importantly, provides a forum for members to communicate directly with each other outside of events.
"It's lovely to feel like the group exists the whole week long, rather than just the 2 hours that we get together on a Thursday evening," Richard explains. Adds Melissa, "We feel really blessed to be living in a time of such great technology."
Sara, an intern on Facebook's communications team, wishes she could carry a tune.