THE power of song to release, unite and uplift has helped one musical family cope with devastating loss, and to bring hope and healing to others.

Young mum Abby Mansi, whose mother Christine Bean died on December 13, aged 56, after a long illness, is using her legacy of singing to help people sing through their own difficulties.

“My mum was always singing,” Abby said. “Singing was part of our family life. She had music on all the time.”

Now Abby is using the power of song to enable people to deal with the stresses of life, with ill health, and even to help them overcome the trauma of abuse. She leads a Carers Choir, a singing group for the British Lung Foundation, The BigSingThing, and recently ran a series of singing workshops for female survivors of sexual abuse for the charity Breaking Free.

“It is so helpful to address your emotions in that kind of way,” Abby said. “It actually benefits your lungs, and it boosts your endorphins and it’s about mindfulness because of the deep breathing you need for singing.”

Abby, 29, who lives in Swindon with husband Mark and two young sons, comes from a family of talented and passionate musicians. Formerly a pupil at St Joseph’s School in Swindon, she studied musical theatre and drama performance at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, where she gained a first class honours degree before traveling abroad to work as a singer at a resort.

Her father, Clarry Bean, well known on the Swindon scene as a former rock singer and musical theatre singer, performed as a male soloist with the Kentwood Show Choir for 23 years, where he trained under Sheila Harrod. He was also manager of the Swindon Arts Centre.

Eleven years ago, he and Christine recorded an album on CD, to raise money for the Prospect Foundation, called How Do You Keep the Music Playing – which had 12 songs and included titles such as Higher and Higher, and Angel.

But tragedy struck in 2009, when Christine was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease called vasculitis, which causes the immune system attacks the body’s healthy blood vessels. She had been ill for some time, but after tests, doctors made the diagnosis and she had chemotherapy and neurosurgery.

“At the time, they only gave her five years to live,” Abby said. “The condition she had was so rare they are never sure how to treat it. They would run out of options and then a new treatment would come along.”

Christine defied the doctors’ predictions, and lived long enough to see her daughter marry, and to become a grandmother to Abby’s sons, Hugo, aged four, and Toby, two. But three years ago, Christine was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which spread to her lungs. As the illness progressed, her health deteriorated and in a particularly cruel stroke, took away her voice – the voice she had used to sing.

“She never expected to see her grandchildren, but she did, and she was really close to them,” Abby said. “She lost her voice in the last few months, when she would still read The Gruffalo to Hugo, in a whisper, and he would whisper back to her.”

Abby said her mother took life step by step – setting goals and making the most of the time she had left with her loved ones.

“We had been told Mum would not make it to Christmas, so we did Christmas early – in October. We had a full-on Christmas meal at my aunt’s house, and played Subbuteo, and gave presents.

“We took her to Longleat for a family holiday on November 11. We went for the weekend, with my dad, my husband, and our two children.

“She enjoyed the wildlife – she could see the rabbits outside the window, and even if she couldn’t go out, there was a holiday atmosphere. When we got back, she went to the hospice.”

Christine spent the last few weeks of her life at the Prospect Hospice, which she had once recorded an album to support. Unable to see her grandson’s Christmas play, she did watch a filmed version, and right to the end of her life, even in the hospice, there was singing.

“The whole family sang carols for Mum,” Abby said. “My dad, brother, aunt and uncle, cousins – about twelve of us. Then people heard us singing down the hall – it was lovely.”

Then a week after the death, Abby had her birthday and received a final gift from her mother: a beautiful picture of a heart, made up of paper butterflies, some of which are flying away.

“She made it for me,” Abby said. “She could only use one hand by then, so she must have spent weeks on it. She liked the idea of butterflies.”

Christine’s funeral took place yesterday (2 Jan), and the service included the playing of the song Angel from the CD they had made years ago for the Prospect Foundation.

“She was able to plan the service,” Abby said. “She wanted people to wear something purple, or purple accessories. Her faith as very important to her – she was a Catholic.”

Now Christine’s passion for singing lives on, in the lives of her family and the ground-breaking work daughter Abby does, bringing the life-enhancing qualities of song to others.

As well as the work she does with the Swindon Carers, and the British Lung Foundation, Abby is starting a singing group for Lift Psychology, called Lift Your Voices. Lift Psychology offers support to people suffering anxiety and distress – and the new singing group will offer people another route to improved well-being.

“Singing gives you emotional release, and the breathing you do is similar to yoga or meditation, but you do it without even thinking about it. And singing is creative,” she said.

With regard to the singing sessions with women at Breaking Free, Abby said: “Singing is a great way to make emotional connections, without having to tell people what you have experienced. It forged some strong friendship bonds – we had some ridiculous warm-ups – and people can show emotions through song.”

Money is being raised in memory of Christine, to be shared between the Prospect Foundation and Vasculitis UK. To make a donation, visit