First she taught the county to sing, now she's showing the world just what the county's singers can do.

And judging by last year's European Choir Games, it appears quite a lot.

In fact 2017 was a pretty special year for Sandra Colston and Funky Voices, which not only celebrated its tenth anniversary but also picked up a silver medal at the Games which was held in Riga.

"It's basically the Olympic Games for choirs," she smiles, "and although it's called the European Choir Games, you get groups from all over the world like China, Brazil and the USA. There was more than a hundred choirs from about 50 countries and roughly about 10,000 people in all. It's a pretty big deal and to be effectively carrying the flag for Britain was a huge honour for us.

"We did a 15 minute medley of songs from Chicago and Supertramp, as you do, and they absolutely loved it. I was so proud of our group because although it was a bit of a holiday as well, they worked so hard to sing for their country. There was a lot of pride there and it really showed. They really gave it their all.

"I think the nicest thing the judges said of us was we brought the party to Riga. Getting the silver medal was pretty special too."

And it's experiences like that which still makes Funky Voices one of the most popular groups in the country.

Funky Voices first started when Sandra Colston organised a night at the Sir Charles Lucas School in Colchester.

She says: "I didn’t really know what to call it then. I just wanted to run a choir for adults, so I called it that – ‘a choir for adults’. No one turned up.

“That kind of put me on the back foot. I had put out flyers and advertised it but no one came, so I left it a few months and started thinking about what I should call it.

“I didn’t want the word choir, because people associate that with classical music and I just wanted everyday people to come along to do popular, catchy tunes. So I came up with Voices, and then pretty quickly afterwards Funky, because that’s what I wanted to do with the songs, make them funky.

“A little bit went in the paper and we launched it back at the school and this time ten people came along. Not a huge number, but enough to get started.”

From that ten, Sandra has built-up Funky Voices to a membership of more than 800 people with groups all over the county from Colchester to Southend, and further afield, singing in places such as the Barbican in London with G4 and Times Square in New York.

"Funky Voices has always been about the music, first and foremost," Sandra tells me. "Getting people to sing who think they can't but since we've been going it has grown to include friendship and camaraderie. Some people have had a lot to deal with in their lives and Funky Voices has been their escape from that.

"Then there's been the experiences. Performing with G4, Blake and Joe McElderry but also the competitions like Barcelona's International Choral Festival where we won best choir and I picked up the best conductor award."

The latest 'experience' was the chance to record the group's tenth anniversary album at the legendary Maida Vale Studios in London.

"It's called Decade," Sandra adds, "and it's made-up of songs that pretty much make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when we sing them. That was the idea, to capture the essence of Funky Voices and what we've achieved in these ten years, and where better to do that than Maida Vale."

Born in Worcester, by her own admission, all Sandra ever did was eat, sleep and breathe music. Starting off with the piano and singing, harmonies interested her very early on.

But what really set her off on the road was a trip to see Stevie Wonder at the NEC when she was just 11.

She adds: “The concert was incredible. As soon as he started singing, I started crying. I don’t know why I was crying, I just did. I’ve seen him a few more times and I’ve always cried then as well.”

Sandra came to Colchester to study for a degree in music and after graduating, she worked at a local radio station where she wrote jingles, continuing with an agency before getting a job with Essex Music Services, which is where her love of music was combined with a new-found love of passing on her skills to other


At first, she taught lessons in schools and went on to help to set up various school choirs. At one schools prom concert in Colchester, Sandra ended up conducting a string of singing groups.

“It became a bit of a joke with the audience,” she grins. “I would finish conducting one school choir, they would sit down, and then I would go over to do the next.”

Now since setting up Funky Voices, Sandra and her hundreds of singers have been wowing audiences all over the world with their musical mash-ups, and rather than resting on her musical laurels, she's looking forward to the next ten years.

"For a start we have a big arena show at Colchester's Charter Hall in October," she says, "which will have some special guests performing and then a trip out to Corfu in the summer, before we get ready for the next European Choir Games, which are in Switzerland next year."

Anyone interested in joining, or for more information on the group, go to