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’.