Singing is a Family Affair Abi Thelma Lesley three generations Fascinating Rhythm Chorus
Fascinating Rhythm Insights 9: Singing is a Family Affair

Singing is a Family Affair

Fascinating Rhythm’s ladies often say that being part of a choir is a great way to make friends who become like an extended singing family. A love of singing and making music often runs in families, so we celebrate some of Fascinating Rhythm’s actual family connections in this article.

Lara and Marilyn – Singing is a Family Affair

Lara currently sings Tenor with Fascinating Rhythm. Her mum, Marilyn, sang Lead with the chorus in the early 2000s and, being a good seamstress, also enjoyed being a member of the Wardrobe Team.

“I was first introduced to barbershop when I was about 15 years old. My step-dad, Simon, sang with Thames Valley Chorus and Mum and I would go to rehearsals and performances to support him. I loved the choreography and the harmony,” remembers Lara. 

When their family moved to Wiltshire, Simon joined the Great Western Chorus (GWC) in Bristol. At one GWC event, Lara and Marilyn were approached by GWC’s Musical Director, Linda, who asked if they did any singing and directed them to Fascinating Rhythm.

After passing their auditions (by singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’), Marilyn chose to sing Lead, and Lara joined the Baritone section. They practiced together in the car on the way to rehearsals and always went home on a high afterwards. They fondly remember the LABBS Conventions in 2003 and 2004 as particular highlights of their time singing together – especially the anticipation of waiting to go on stage and show the judges the Convention packages.

“When we joined Fascinating Rhythm, the chorus had about 23 members and was busy preparing for LABBS Convention – polishing their contest songs and trying on fancy frocks – the team spirit was amazing,” says Lara. “It was such a thrill to get up on stage for the first time. It was the most amazing adrenalin rush, and I’ve been hooked ever since!”

Marilyn continued to support Simon and the Great Western Chorus, travelling to the USA with them when they were British Association of Barbershop Singers Gold Medal winners but found she couldn’t continue with Fascinating Rhythm at the same time. 

Lara went to live in America, which meant leaving Fascinating Rhythm for a while, but she has returned to the chorus, now she is settled back in the UK.

On singing with her family, Lara says, “Unfortunately, my daughter is not interested in singing at all, but my son did sing with a boys’ choir for a long time and loved it, so the singing genes went down the line in that direction. There was an occasion when I had both of my children up on stage to sing a Christmas carol with Fascinating Rhythm, which means there have been three generations of our family singing with the chorus for a brief, glorious moment!”

Di and Mads – Singing is a Family Affair

Di is a long-standing member of Fascinating Rhythm’s Bass section, and her daughter, Mads, sang Baritone with the chorus before branching out to establish her own singing career. They share a love of crafting and have both been members of the Wardrobe Team.

“I first saw Fascinating Rhythm sing as guests at a concert hosted by Dursley Male Voice Choir, which my husband had joined when we moved to Dursley from Wales. There was a fabulous afterglow in the pub afterwards. Having always been involved in amateur operatics and similar activities, I approached Jo to ask if she needed any more singers. She said yes, and I’m still here 11 years on!” remembers Di. 

A year or so later, Di encouraged Mads to come and sing with the choir. “Mads was just finding her voice and needed to build her self-confidence – I knew Fascinating Rhythm could help her do that!” Di says. “I felt so proud to be able to watch her confidence grow and often had a lump in my throat when she was asked to sing a solo.”

“Mum had been a member for a while, and I’d seen a couple of the choir’s shows”, reflects Mads. “I’d always sung but never done anything in an ensemble before, and barbershop just seemed to be different to the usual options – plus it was a chance to spend time with Mum, especially as I no longer lived at home.”

Di and Mads agree that the best thing about joining Fascinating Rhythm was getting to spend more time together. They have particularly fond memories of the LABBS Conventions, especially the year the chorus came fifth in the competition and was awarded ‘Most Improved Chorus’ and Jo received ‘Most Improved Director’. 

As well as singing as part of the chorus, Di and Mads also sang together in the quartet Free Range with Dot and Lesley. They agree that one particular highlight was the quartet’s trip to Spain to take part in the Spanish Association of Barbershop Singers Convention. 

One special memory for Mads was being awarded ‘Singer of the Year’ with less than 2-years of service. “It may not seem much but, as someone who was so uncertain of my voice and capability, it gave me such a boost. In fact, Fascinating Rhythm continued to give me those boosts which eventually enabled me to have the music career I do today” she smiles.

Di and Mads agree that singing in a chorus is a hugely positive hobby and extol the virtues of being part of such a strong sisterhood. “Many of us have had tragedies and incredible high spots, and the support offered by these ladies is tremendous and unstinting. Chorus is a safe place to go and leave all your troubles at the door and really lose yourself in the creation of glorious music,” says Di. Mads agrees, “Fascinating Rhythm is the loveliest, most supportive and fun-loving group you could ever wish to meet. You will work really hard, but you will learn so much about the craft of singing and performance and yourself in the midst of that. It taught me to enjoy rather than fear performing, and that has had a wide-ranging influence on other areas of my life since – for the better!”

Follow these links to watch Mads performing her debut single; The Heart Has A Thousand Tongues, and the follow-up, Black Cat.

Lesley and Thelma – Singing is a Family Affair

Lesley has been a member of Fascinating Rhythm for 25 years. She is Assistant Section Leader for the Lead section and has sung in various quartet line-ups. Her mum, Thelma, sang Bass with the chorus and was an active member of the Wardrobe Team for many years.

After seeing a leaflet advertising a local singing group, Lesley and Thelma joined Fascinating Rhythm. Thelma had recently moved closer to Lesley and had been involved in amateur dramatics in her old village, so the pair thought they’d give singing a go! They started out singing Lead and had to speed-learn the repertoire so they could sing with the chorus at a garden party concert six weeks later!

“The best thing about singing with Mum was sharing a passion for the same thing. That was a really special thing for us, especially the quality time together when we had weekends away for LABBS Conventions,” reflects Lesley. “We don’t really share any other hobbies other than the enjoyment of gardening, which is being passed down to my daughter.”

Lesley and Thelma have many special memories of their time together with Fascinating Rhythm, particularly the many Conventions they attended – sharing a room, enjoying some great afterglow parties and staying up into the wee small hours!

“I remember one year when my quartet Free Range competed at Convention. We put our heart and soul into our performance. To see the pride on Mum’s face when we came off stage was so lovely,” says Lesley.

Lesley’s daughter, Abi, also joined Fascinating Rhythm for one of the chorus’s Learn To Sing workshops, which meant three generations of the family singing together that day.

“It was such fun and exciting, but sadly, Abi didn’t get bitten by the singing bug!” muses Lesley.

Thelma decided to retire from singing in 2020 and was awarded honorary membership for her long service to the chorus. She often talks about Fascinating Rhythm and visits when she can – even joining one of the choir’s Zoom social evenings during the lockdown.

“I’d encourage anyone who is thinking of joining a choir-like Fascinating Rhythm to just do it! You may fall in love with the joy of singing, and it could become a big part of your life. I’ve been part of Fascinating Rhythm for over 25 years now, and my children have grown up with their Mum and Nan singing barbershop – it’s been part of their lives too!” says Lesley.

Jo and Linda – Singing is a Family Affair

Fascinating Rhythm’s Musical Director Jo has been singing barbershop since she was 12 years old. She is lucky enough to have sung with her mum, Linda, and her Grandmother, Irene! 

“As a family, our barbershop roots stretch right back over three generations, with both of my grandparents being heavily involved, so I guess there was no escape!” Jo laughs.

When Jo joined Fascinating Rhythm in 2004, Linda was taking a break from singing to care for Jo’s dad. Eventually, Jo persuaded her mum to come and join the chorus, and they sang Baritone together. Linda became Baritone section leader, a role she held for many years. She was there to support Jo when she transitioned from being a singing member of the chorus to Musical Director.

Being part of Fascinating Rhythm allowed Jo and Linda to share their love of singing and passion for barbershop. The opportunity to sing together for so many years helped to create a special mum-daughter bond, including laughing over the wrong (sometimes rude!) song lyrics and crying during songs with personal meaning, and spooking each other out when harmonising because their voices are so similar. Although Linda now lives too far away to sing with the chorus, she and Jo have lots of great memories and plenty of YouTube clips to reminisce over when they get together.

“It was so great to share our love of singing and benefit from proper catch-up time in the journeys to and from chorus rehearsals. We are both baritones at heart, and Mum has the best baritone voice and work ethic ever!” reflects Jo. “When I became Musical Director, I would frequently catch Mum’s eye during rehearsal, and I could tell by that silent communication that I was doing okay.”

Sarah and Lily – Singing is a Family Affair

Sarah sings Baritone with Fascinating Rhythm (and occasionally dabbles with singing Lead). Her daughter, Lily, recently joined the Baritone section, having sung previously with Junior FR

Sarah joined Fascinating Rhythm after she was asked if she could sing by a member of the Great Western Chorus. Initially, she went to a Learn To Sing day in January 2014 and loved it. Then, she came along to a rehearsal six months later and passed her audition three weeks after that.

“I’d heard the Great Western Chorus sing and seen the quartet Havoc. Then, I discovered that Vanessa (who I knew through my elder daughter) was in Fascinating Rhythm, and she told me about the Learn To Sing day. I went along, and someone there told me I had a ‘very barbershop face’!” remembers Sarah.

Lily started coming along to watch Fascinating Rhythm rehearsals with her mum. She began singing with Junior FR when Sarah was involved in directing their production of ‘Cinderella’ and took part in the following year’s show, “Little Red Riding Hood’, for which her mum made her dress up as a Land Girl and danced the Charleston!

“I went to my first LABBS Convention when I was nine years old. I watched all the quartets and gave them marks. I loved it and have been every year since,” says Lily.

Sarah and Lily love singing in the Baritone section together, and they help each other learn and practice songs between rehearsals. 

“It’s brilliant because Lily is better than me and will help me learn. Plus, she knows how to download the teach tracks to her phone, so I’m hoping she’ll do mine too!” says Sarah.

If you are thinking of learning to sing or joining a choir, Fascinating Rhythm can give you a warm and friendly welcome. You can even bring a family member along for support!

To find out more about joining Fascinating Rhythm, please get in touch via our website. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

You might also like to see other articles in the Fascinating Rhythm Insight series:

01 – Why singing is good for you

02 – Making your performance authentic

03 – Performance through vocal expression

04 – Teamwork makes the dream work

05 – Why warm-up?

06 – The new members’ guide to joining a choir during a pandemic!

07 – Breathing to Sing

08 – Junior FR: how it started / how it’s going

10 – How we choose Convention songs

Lara and Marylin
Lara and Marylin
Mads and Di
Lesley and Thelma
Thelma and Lesley
Lesley and Thelma
Abi Thelma Lesley
Jo and Linda
Free Range Quartet
Fascinating Rhythm 2001
Sarah and Lily
Sarah and Lily
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