Singing has long been part of the busy life of Kate Leslie.

At the age of 12 she joined a church choir in Petone, where she grew up.

Kate sang in competitions and once won a scholarship with acclaimed teacher and composer, Hamilton Dickson. She’s also sung a solo on an aircraft carrier!

Always time for singing

As a mother of four daughters, a mature university student, hospital social worker and alongside her prominent role in setting up the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Kate found time for singing.

While living in Christchurch, it was with the Christchurch Harmonic, and in Auckland she sang with the Choral Society. She enjoyed the classics: Haydn, Bach and Mahler.

Now living in Algies Bay, north of Auckland where she’s a leading light in several community organisations, Kate still singing – this time to a very different beat with the Kai Rhythmix.

Unlike other choirs where sight reading is an essential skill to gain entrance, this choir doesn’t hold auditions.

New languages, new memories

But for Kate, a competent sight reader, pianist and fine soprano, it poses new challenges.

Many of the Kai Rhythmix songs are of African, Eastern European origin and even some from the Spanish Sephardic tradition, as well as from different genres, like Appalachian gospel songs.

“It’s very different from what I’m used to,” Kate says.

“The foreign words can be difficult, but Helen [conductor] is very encouraging and often spells them phonetically. People very much enjoy the range of music, and that it’s different,” she adds.

Kate admits when it comes to new learning, singing this style of music isn’t a doddle.

Free and friendly

“It can be taxing in the sense that there is variety of language and rhythms. Helen suggests that we do little steps and we’ll clap in some songs, while I’m used to standing very still with your book and just singing.”

Kate finds the choir much freer and friendlier than the more formal choral singing she used to do.

“People arrive early and chat with one another. I’m used to arriving, starting to sing, finishing and going home. This is different, there’s a real spirit of community and fun,” she says.

Aside from singing, Kate’s time is divided among community roles and hobbies that include being a JP, tennis club president, ratepayers association member, a civil defence warden, and scrabble club player.

But busy as she is, “Singing lifts the spirits; it’s good for the soul.”