Fascinating Rhythm started 2020 as usual with our AGM and annual awards dinner, celebrating the contributions chorus members make to our singing group. Rose received the Chair’s Award, Carole and Peggy shared the Director’s Award, and Nic won the Members’ Award. Our Director, Jo, inspired us to keep ‘building momentum’ and surprised us with a late Christmas present – a brand new song to learn.
By March, we had the music for a second new song, pushing us firmly into ‘learning mode’ as we prepared for a retreat weekend to work on our 2020 Convention package. Unfortunately, just as we got ‘off the page’ the coronavirus pandemic hit. We were forced to abandon rehearsals and stay at home. But, determined to keep on track with our new songs, we began holding rehearsals online.
Fascinating Rhythm: Virtual Choir
Since the middle of March, Thursday evenings have seen Fascinating Rhythm meeting online. We’ve dialled in by phone, tablet or laptop, and supported each other in the only way we know-how – with a jolly good sing!
Zoom rehearsals have taken on a new format with physical and vocal warm-ups led by Wendy and Karen. We’ve super manned, time-warped and danced safely in the knowledge that no-one was watching (thank goodness!), learned new warm-up songs in a range of languages, and tested our note accuracy with some interesting new do-re-mi scale exercises. All the time enhanced by the perils of screen-sharing, forgetting to mute/unmute, and the slight delay in Wi-Fi connections.
Our Director, Jo, introduced a ‘2-minute members showpiece’ section – a unique opportunity to discover Fascinating Rhythm’s hidden talents. From poetry to magical maths to songs from a range of genres, we’ve bonded over some incredibly rich and emotional performances. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the duet Di and Mads shared with us was a truly special, tear-jerking moment.
Zoom’s break-out function allowed us to meet up in sections, which was a great way to check-in on each other. Good mental health and wellbeing is a fundamental part of Fascinating Rhythm’s choir community – we’re like an extended family! It really helped to talk about home-schooling challenges, being unable to visit elderly parents, and staying motivated to keep fit and well. And, when Jo dropped into the room, to pretend we’d diligently been practising our singing!
Another good thing about Zoom has been the opportunity to re-watch Fascinating Rhythm’s old Convention and concert performances. Each Thursday, Jo selects a video clip from the past for us to enjoy and comment on. It’s been interesting to look back on the journey and progress we’ve made together over the years, and reflect on song choices to choreography and costumes.
Coaching On Camera
Fascinating Rhythm’s two favourite barbershop coaches, Liz Garnett and Sally McLean, found time to Zoom in to say hello and keep us motivated. Liz ran two virtual workshops on our convention songs, which gave us a really good understanding of how the musical arrangement enhances the lyrical meaning of the songs. Sally joined our Easter bonnet parade and encouraged us to look forward to when we can sing together again.
Fascinating Rhythm was also privileged to have guest speakers from the barbershop community come along to give presentations on LABBS judging criteria for music, singing and performance. Boo, Helen and our wonderful Karen (all from Avalon quartet ) put us through our paces on the theory of music and singing in the barbershop style and gave us plenty to think about for when we will next be able to grace the Convention stage.
Jo, Karen and Wendy held a couple of ‘coaching under glass’ sessions, where three members of the chorus received one-to-one coaching on singing and performance, live on Zoom! Well done to Chloe, Erica and Angela for volunteering and sharing this experience with the rest of the chorus.
Fascinating Rhythm’s Music Committee also held two workshop nights. Focused sessions with Jo, Karen, Brenda and Wendy reminded us about breathing techniques, vocal expression, space and placement, and acting songs. We also convened a book club, tried out Qi Gong, investigated our personality types, and developed cat-like confidence.
Charity At Home
Fascinating Rhythm couldn’t resist joining in with the trend for virtual lockdown choir videos, so we put together an impressive performance for our Charity of the Year – the Jessie May Trust. This Bristol-based charity that provides nursing care for children is an organisation that is close to our hearts. We learnt and recorded a fabulous new arrangement of Hallelujah and Jo put together a stunning video, which we promoted as a fundraiser on our Facebook page. And if you’d like to help us in supporting Jessie May, you can donate here.
We also took time in our rehearsals to support the weekly clap for carers. A huge clap goes to Lily from Junior FR, who spent her birthday running 10km around her garden to raise over £1000 for the NHS!
Fascinating Rhythm was also delighted to be nominated for the Voluntary Arts Epic Awards 2020 in recognition of the video we made “This is Me“ last year for the charity Ups and Downs Southwest. Sharon and Hannah (our Chair and Public Relations Officer) donned their finest sparkly dresses to attend the virtual awards ceremony. It was an honour to be among such fantastic community projects and have the chance for some ‘online speed dating’ with local community groups.
Staying In Was The New Going Out
Themed, social nights, were introduced to provide light relief during the lockdown. Every six weeks, we’ve dressed up with fancy hats, costumes or glamorous dresses and enjoyed an excellent karaoke sing-along to some of our favourite chorus numbers and pop songs.
A highlight of our social calendar was the four-chorus jamboree with our sister choirs across Bristol. Nearly 100 people connected on Zoom to celebrate our best lockdown moments, test our barbershop knowledge and watch gold-medal performances from some of the best international champions.
LABBS Big Weekend
With the pandemic in full swing, we weren’t able to travel to Bournemouth for the annual LABBS Convention this year and had to settle for a virtual celebration of all things barbershop. Choruses and quartets from across the country were asked, to send in a video of what they’d been working on throughout the year, for the LABBS Big Weekend.
Fascinating Rhythm used Listen To The Music, one of our favourite songs, as the backing track for a montage of the ways in which our members have kept themselves busy during the lockdown. We were excited to showcase the song to our barbershop friends around the world. Our two resident quartets, Avalon and Specs Appeal, also featured in the LABBS Big Weekend with their versions of ‘Popular‘ from the musical Wicked and the theme song to ‘The Big Bang Theory’.
Bring On 2021!
Fascinating Rhythm has provided a lifeline for so many of us this year and Thursday nights have kept our wonderful extended family connected. We’ve welcomed new members and sadly bid a fond farewell to some old friends.
Whilst singing alone at the laptop on mute on Zoom is no substitute for the enjoyment of being together, it won’t be long until we can get back on the risers together. Until then, we’ll finish the year with a hearty rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
Each year, on usually the last weekend in October, you will find us somewhere in the country in full makeup and glitzy dresses as we prepare to cross the stage and compete in the LABBS Annual Convention.
2020 has been the strangest of years and of course, a certain pandemic has put paid to any kind of mass gathering – definitely no chance of 2000 barbershoppers descending on the Bournemouth International Centre!
However, not to be deterred, the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers hopped on-line and have blown us all away by providing a whole weekend of educational sessions, chorus and quartet contributions and amazing guest speakers.
We felt so proud to see our contribution air on Saturday afternoon on LABBS TV, live through YouTube.
Please enjoy our ‘Life in Lockdown’ video featuring the song ‘Listen To The Music’. We are so proud to have kept the music going during 2020 and we can’t wait to be back together for real.
We warmed up, sorted the parts and went off in our sections, armed with liberal amounts of coffee and cake.
Before we knew it, it was time to reassemble and with the bulk of the song learned, wow, it sounded fabulous!
After a quick lunch, with an opportunity to have a flutter on the raffle, we reconvened, and Wendy restarted our brains with the fun but tricky “Boom Snap Clap” exercise.
One last sectional was enjoyed to iron out those last few tricksy bits and then a several run-throughs with the whole group before it was time to perform for the attendee’s friends and families.
We were really impressed with the performance of our delegates and the way they immersed themselves in the spirit of the day. We hope they continue to make their own kind of music and return for next year’s challenge!
Recently, we were delighted to present a final cheque for almost £550.00 to Dementia Connections, our chosen charity for 2018.
Thelma represented Fascinating Rhythm to present the cheque to Amanda and Christine who run the local group in Wotton-under-Edge.
Christine said “All of us at Dementia Connections are really grateful for this donation from Fascinating Rhythm. The money will help us to complete our allotment project this year. We plan to add a seating area, raised beds and troughs so that everyone in our groups can take part in planting and harvesting this year and into the future. We love our days on the allotment when the weather allows, and all this will make it so much easier for us to go there more often. A huge thank you from all of us. Amanda and Christine“
We are, of course so pleased to be able to help such a worthy cause and wish them well in their future projects.
Children and young people with Down Syndrome release Fascinating music video.
Today sees the release of a music video with children and young people who have Down Syndrome performing an arrangement of the award-winning song “This is Me” alongside one of the UK’s leading ladies’ barbershop choruses.
This musical collaboration brings together families supported by the Down Syndrome charity, Ups and Downs Southwest https://www.upsanddowns.net/, and members of the 60-strong, South Gloucestershire based chorus, Fascinating Rhythm.
Released on World Down Syndrome Awareness Day (WDSD), the video contributes to the WDSD 2019 “leave no one behind” campaign raising awareness that people with Down Syndrome should have equal opportunities to live fulfilling lives in all aspects of society.
“This is me”, from the film The Greatest Showman, is a defiant song of self-empowerment sung by the people with unique qualities employed as so-called “human oddities” for the Barnum Circus.
The idea for the video came from Jo Thorn, Director of Ups and Downs Southwest and Musical Director of Fascinating Rhythm.
“This year at Ups and Downs, we agreed to create something for World Down Syndrome Awareness Day relevant to its campaign but with the potential for global reach too. We wanted to feature our young people sending out a very pertinent message through a song which says: although I may be different, I still make a difference and a worthwhile contribution to society. We asked my chorus Fascinating Rhythm to support us to help provide an inclusive platform for our children and young people to explore their creative side through signing as well as song.”
Members of Fascinating Rhythm and the young people with Down Syndrome had to learn the song with Makaton signs to communicate keywords, and the video was after weeks of preparation finally recorded.
Fascinating Rhythm chorus member Wendy Daniell said,
“It has been a huge privilege for us being invited to participate in this project. I personally have learned so much more about Down Syndrome, and it was a surprise to me to discover Makaton being used as a language to support speech development. And we had such fun working with the Ups and Downs families on the day our performance was being filmed.”
Marie, the mother of 12-year-old Poppy who has Down Syndrome, said
“It was such a joy for me to see Poppy involved in this project. It allowed her to get involved in new and enriching experiences, but in a nurturing environment too with the lovely ladies of Fascinating Rhythm being so understanding and supportive. She was enthralled by the equipment used by the professional film production team and also thrilled at performing with such an amazing chorus.”
The project has been generously supported with grants from Sedgemoor District Council and Bridgwater Town Council, and in-kind contributions from music recording company “nooj Productions” and venue hire from Sydenham Barn.
The video can be seen on Twitter at #leavenoonebehind and #UDThisisme https://youtu.be/A54xxtJgxOg
Fascinating Rhythm signing “Here I come” with Makaton in the song “This is Me”
We were so pleased that the snow did not stop play for our learn to sing workshop held on 2nd February. Fortunately, the snow stopped falling in time for us to go ahead, so the delegates did not miss out on their singing fix.
We welcomed around 70 ladies of all ages (including a Mum and Daughter set which with our Fascinating Rhythm member (the grandmother) made a 3 generation appearance again)
The delegates worked so hard this year as it was quite a mammoth song – it was the very famous “This is Me” (from The Greatest Showman) so it was even more of a challenge for those ladies who were given a harmony part and not the lead line (the bit we all know)
The speed at which the song was learnt was incredible. We even had a run-through before lunch!
Much cake was consumed, and we again offered merchandise to buy along with the chance of winning a raffle prize.
We were delighted that we now seem to have several ‘regulars’ who come to the workshop each year, and we look forward to welcoming everyone again in 2020!
The Chorus has again received some great feedback from our guests, and we would like to share some of it with you here:
“The day whizzed by – such fun with lovely people. I’d love to come again.”
“An excuse to let go – great to enjoy time with great ladies.”
“A great day doing something for myself and being part of something big!”
“Just a nice experience to be with others who enjoy singing and the opportunity of being part of a choir for just a day.”
“Find that although it takes me out of my ‘comfort zone’ I have a sense of achievement by the end of the day. It’s just lovely to sing and meet such a fab group of ladies!”
We thank you, ladies, for coming to share the day with us, it was lovely to welcome you to Fascinating Rhythm, and we hope to see you again.
We were delighted that on Saturday 10th November we performed for “Dementia Connections”, our charity of the year. They organised a concert with refreshments and a raffle while the audience enjoyed 2 halves of Fascinating Rhythm singing all of our favourites.
Well over £1,000 was raised for this local charity who provide memory groups and carer support.
Chris Sweet commented, “What a fabulous evening we had last Saturday. Our group members, volunteers and friends in the audience enjoyed Fascinating Rhythm singing their hearts out for us”.
We are thrilled that the evening was a success and we will be able to let you know what other funds are raised by Fascinating Rhythm for the group in the new year.
Fascinating Rhythm were delighted to host the Southwest regional education day in June.
LABBS members of thirteen choruses from all corners of the region travelled to join us to work on the current polecat song “Anthem” as well as to catch up with old friends and of course to eat cake!
Our guest educators Monica Funnell (MD of Crystal Chords) and Avalon quartet provided guidance on singing and performance throughout the day. There was even some friendly competition as the group split into two mini choruses for the afternoon in preparation for a sing-off.
The day ended with a massed sing from our enormous combined Chorus – a fantastic sound which clearly showed the brilliance of barbershop singing in the Southwest!
As an established chorus, we are always delighted to present our members with our long service badges.
Recently we have had quite a cohort of ladies who have been with us ranging from 5 up to 15 years.
Congratulations ladies, we appreciate your commitment and enthusiasm for the Chorus.