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Harmony on Zoom

Harmony 303 Community Choir has risen from the ashes of the Pandemic!
Felled as it was along with most other activities, it lives again-virtually. Virtual is proving more than good enough for the 30-40 of us who were missing Tuesday morning singing and so have become Zoom Harmony.
However, I realised when we gathered for the first session that it wasn’t just the singing I had missed, it was my fellow choir members too. When a phalanx of familiar thumb-sized faces – in studies, kitchens, sitting rooms et al – appeared on my computer screen it was quite a moving moment, illustrating unequivocally the bonding power of group singing.
Not of course that we can sing as a group because we are muted and hear only our leader Fran Andre – with backing music, which is a novelty for an a cappella choir. Fran has taken up the Zoom leadership of Harmony with an enthusiasm and passion much like that to which we had enjoyed with Caroline (and how lovely to see her as part of Zoom Harmony).
Fran gives us a one and a half hour programme which incorporates past repertoire and new songs- exactly right in terms of holding on to the past, but also looking forward. Under Caroline’s direction we learned many songs from other countries, most especially from Africa which we loved, and it is so pleasing that Fran shares this passion. It’s hard to teach four separate parts – even more so virtually – but Fran manages us well, singing each part and getting us to copy her as appropriate to our voice, depending on our up or down-turned thumbs to ascertain whether or not we have got it. The words of songs go into the ‘chat room’ and the backing music and sung parts into Dropbox, so we can access everything between Tuesday sessions if we want to.
Halfway through we go into ‘Break-Out Rooms’ and meet up with a random four or five choir members; it doesn’t matter who your fellow Break Outs are, it’s lovely catching up with all and any of them. Reassuringly we seem all to have survived Covid, although sadly have lost one of our number since last we were together.
However, the Zoom choir is but half of Harmony 303 – not everyone has opted or been able to join in, and they are missed. Of course, Zoom singing cannot replace what we had, but until the day we all meet again in Norton Village Hall, it is a bonus. These sessions go a long way toward making you feel as if you are singing with a choir again rather than solitary warbling to bookshelves or the

Aga. Fran is passionate and inspiring – and sings beautifully – and the end of Lockdown is in sight. Plenty for which to be very thankful.
Jenny Becker March 2021

Goodbye to Ros

There was a poignant significance to Harmony 303 ‘s first gathering after more than a year of Lockdown silence, in singing to celebrate the life of our founder Ros Beattie who died earlier this year.

On the most beautiful summer’s day in August in the glorious countryside setting of the Natural Burial Ground near Beaminster, thirty or more members sang for Ros in an open-sided barn overlooking fields of long grass and wild flowers. We sang in remembrance of a person whose significance to the choir is inestimable, in gratitude for all she had done, and with sadness that she is no longer with us. Caroline led as she has for the past ten years – wonderfully familiar – singing songs from our repertoire that were particularly dear to Ros. I am sure we all felt a determination to make this performance as good as it could be on this very special occasion, and the rafters of the barn really did seem to ring.

Friends and relatives shared memories of Ros- fascinating to learn a bit about her active and inspiring past. Specific aspects came through, most notably Ros’s generosity- with her time, her energy , her skills and gifts- and her attention to detail which ensured that any event she was organising was meticulously planned. Harmony 303 members benefited from both; I recall Ros going to great lengths to ensure the coach used for an outing had the facility to lower, to facilitate access for less mobile members.

After the singing and service we wandered, singly and in small groups down the hill and a little way into the meadow where one of Ros’s scarves waved in the breeze marking ‘her’ spot. Scarves were very much Ros’s signature item, and as we made our way back up the hill there were stands absolutely full of her extraordinary collection, and we were all invited to help ourselves. Many were in water shades- blues, greens and turquoises -worn by the choir for performances. Through her scarves Ros will go on with us into the future, a tangible part of her unique legacy- the Harmony 303 choir.