By Ginny Dougary

I've always loved singing, but singing hasn't always loved me. I would open my mouth with an Aretha Franklin song in my head, fully expecting my voice to follow suit - only to be betrayed by a tremulous travesty.

Still, doggedly, devotedly, I continued to attempt to sing whenever possible. On car journeys, when my now twentysomething sons were small, they would make a great play (hands over their ears, shrieking 'No, Mum, stop!') of being tortured as I sang along to the radio.

Fortunately, I have had fellow carousers in my life - some of whom could really sing.

The highlight of weekends with one couple was when the wife (who had sung with a band in New York) would lift up her guitar and beckon me into another room, where we would sing James Taylor and Beatles songs for hours.

Back then, I would no more have considered joining a choir than taking up bell-ringing. And when I did eventually become a member of my first choir 15 years ago, it was long before Gareth Malone was a household name.

But from the moment I experienced my voice as something singular but also unified, in harmony with the other singers, I was hooked. It was like falling in love.

And everyone in the choir had the same slightly dazed smiles and bright eyes - singing made them feel happy, too.

Although it is singing itself that makes me happy, it is also the communality of a choir. There is something magical about breathing together; a mass of voices singing quietly together is powerful and thrillingly mysterious, almost spiritual.

And there's the unexpected camaraderie from the activities we do as a choir, raising money for good causes and taking our singing sometimes to places where people are forgotten and sad.

I am now a member of six choirs and, if I can, sing every day of the week. I will never sound like Aretha, but I stand on a stage in front of several hundred people and know that some, if not all, of each song will sound not bad at all.