This June 2019 has been a damp and moist month so far, so instead of watching the rain fall heavily this Thursday, we decided to let the sunshine in our rehearsal. The marvelous Linda Corcoran from the Great Western Chorus Of Bristol was invited along by MD Mary for the evening and she took us on a whirlwind journey to help us improve our latest new song. This is part of our scheme to ensure that we get a variety of experienced coaches to aid us and help bring in new ideas.
The new uptempo is a cheeky barbershop chart and although there isn’t a plan for it to be taken to the convention this year, we realize the need to keep adding in fresh new material and rotating our repertoire. It helps us learn to implement the improving singing skills we are acquiring into everything we do.
Linda got us on our feet with a vibrant warmup working our voices and concentrating our how we produce and place our voices. Then onto the work on the song. We sang in sections, duets and trios. We practiced how to add character to our performance and tell the story. As everyone had memorized their parts helped by the work that we had already put in during previous weeks to ensure we could already sing it together, it meant we could concentrate on how we come across rather than worrying about reading it (and not watching the conductor!)
The evening remained on a constructive high throughout and everyone bounced out of the door at the end enthused by Linda’s energy and drive. We thank her very much for coming and giving us all an enjoyable evening.
Roll on next week, when we will continue the good work. It can’t come quick enough!
Avon Harmony A Cappella is preparing for LABBS Convention in October 2019 in earnest. This year the two songs were decided at the turn of the year. We began learning them as soon as we finished our January Love to Sing Course where we gained several new singers in our ranks. We were making great progress and sung out our ballad just four weeks after first picking up the music, but we wanted more and the delight is in the detail and unconscious competence that comes as the songs mature over a few months
On April 13th & 14th, we booked out a weekend and invited the inspiration Helen Lappert of Amersham A Cappella. It was the first time Helen has worked with both Mary our MD and AH, but we knew we were in for a treat as she coaches some of the best choirs and choruses in the UK, as well as being invited to Europe to coach.
Helen started us up warming up our minds and voices, and we picked up some new exercises including the bellows that will remain in our chorus toolkit to come. Our two new songs were shown and there we began. Section by section, we worked our way through. The team of Helen and Mary guided us through how we can adjust to make our voices sound better, how to make the songs flow, correct issues and getting in deep and personal with our interpretation to get us making much more than just a "rendition" of our favourite music.
We had a social on the Saturday night that involved plenty of food, a carvery, and a few drinks. There were a few laughs to be had as we all got to know each other a bit better.
At the end of two long nearly seven-hour days, we were sounding more together than we had ever before with Helen's valuable help. The half chorus singing to each other our ballad at the end of the sessions was a magical moment. If we can do it with just eleven than we know we can do it in the comfort of our twenty-nine strong chorus. And although not all singers could make it for the rehearsal weekend and some only part of the time, they could catch up watching the secret rehearsal videos and reading the notes, so everyone is a winner.
Watch out LABBS in October! Avon Harmony is a'comin'.
PS Never too late to join us on.
PPS Helen will be back in September.
I joined Avon Harmony in February 2017 after reading a small ad in the local free magazine inviting any ladies along to a 10 week ‘Love to sing’ course. So my mum and I tentatively went to our first session and we were both hooked from then on (maybe it was the tea and cakes that made us keep coming) as at first I never thought I’d be able to be as good as some of the ladies that have been singing for years, having not sung in a choir since I was at school (a little over …….. years ago!).
I started out in the baritone section, then decided my voice was more suited to the lead section, although I can sometimes join the parts I like best when we first start a new song!
I’ve always loved singing, but when at school I decided I couldn’t do everything so I chose sport over singing (although I must admit if it had been the other way around, I may not have had so many bumps and breaks as I’ve had).
When people ask me what I love about Avon Harmony, I’d say it’s the support of the other members, they always ask how me and my family are, agreeing to sing at my mum’s wake. It made me feel proud to be amongst such a strong, supportive groups of women who, no matter what, will always be, as they sang at the wake:
‘When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand
My funniest chorus moment must be when, during our concert last April when one of the ladies broke away from the others to dance to ‘Hey big spender’ twirling around a red boa, the audience went wild, her husband looked shocked.
I have many passions in my life and apart from my family it has got to be hockey, which I’m still playing after 40 odd years and gardening, although some of the plants have decided to grow legs as my replanting regime is a tough one.
One thing I’ve done and would never do again would be have my hair shaved at the side and dyed purple, when I was a punk, my dad was not amused, and neither was the girl’s grammar school I attended. Although purple seems to be quite a popular colour again, maybe I could investigate it??
And now to cap it all I’ve become Chair of Avon Harmony and enjoy getting my teeth into GDPR, rules and regulations, roles and responsibilities as well as lots of tea and cake.
Christmas Cheer In Stockwood
BlueBell Gardens have been very active in providing regular entertainment and social opportunities for residents and Mary Williams from Avon Harmony has her own personal connections having grown up in Stockwood he rself. Her Great Grandmother Kate used to live there 30 odd years ago in the former sheltered housing that used to stand on that same site before it was rebuilt and updated.
Mary, now aged 44 said, “It was very special to be singing again at this same spot I fondly remember from years ago. I recall being stood in my Granny’s room and it looked towards the chemist. We used to go and visit her on the way home from primary school and I used to sing and baton twirl and was even known to entertain the residents of that time in their community room! Not a lot has changed as I still love to perform and it brings back happy memories.”
Avon Harmony is an A Cappella choir who loves to sing in the community, concerts, and fundraisers and they participate in an annual singing convention in October to perform to over 2500 people. “We enjoy belonging to something bigger than ourselves and it is a great thing to be singing with friends. It makes us happy in that we can make beautiful music and share it with others,” says Mary.
| Lamorna is Avon Harmony's youngest current member and this is her story about why she sings with us. I know she'd love some more people in their 20s to join our ranks.|
Lamorna- "I joined AH in January because I really missed singing after 5 years of not being in a choir.
I grew up around barbershop because my mum is in Amersham A Cappella and have wanted to be involved ever since I can remember. In the end, I couldn’t wait any longer and ended up travelling to Bristol from Cardiff once a week so I could sing with these fab ladies.
I really enjoy singing in close harmony and working my brain as well as my voice. Being in AH really is like having a second family - we get the giggles and get told off, we love a chat and a catch-up, and there’s always a shoulder to cry on. My favourite moments at AH are singing surrounded by basses and doing my first ever barbershop performance.
Every week I leave rehearsal buzzing and would recommend it to absolutely everyone!"
"Why I Joined My First A Cappella Chorus".
A copy of an article that was written by our director Mary Williams during 2013.
Love Life and Barbershop. This is why I started to sing.
I love singing in my local barbershop chorus. It’s changed my life for better and I’m not just a mum anymore, I’m me. I have learned so much, made wonderful friends and feel now that I am living rather than existing. This article is about why I joined and the fear of going to my first rehearsal.
My Life At The Time.
I wanted to get out of the house as every day was groundhog day. Everyone taking and nobody thanking. A 24/7 mum with four young kids at home. The school runs rain or shine, organizing who has to be where and when, cleaning the endless cycle of the family mess that never ceases, working hard in my job, nappy changes, baby milk, miserable soap operas on the television… feeling much like a headless chicken who had lost control of who I was. So busy.
I was always that friendly woman with a friendly face who would stop and chat… “so and so’s mum” and “she’s nice”. However, many didn’t know my name, but they knew that I got on with everyone, so that was fine. I invited people round when I could “to play” with my children, but the relationships didn’t blossom much other than being part of a wider circle of friends. I listened to the stories of their marvelous adventures going out to shows, concerts, girly holidays with envy hoping that someday that they might invite me. Behind the smiley face, I was feeling insanely lonely and I needed close friends. I didn’t see many adults by day, spending most of my time with babies. Watching everyone “doing this, that and the other” was eating me up. I didn’t want to ask. What if they didn’t like me and made excuses? No. I thought that would be terrible. So I didn’t go there.
Deciding what to do.
I have an active mind. I needed some people that I could share that with who understood. I was fed up with the world of nappies and clothes washing. I needed to escape. So I thought, it's about time to do something for myself. Fed up with being miserable. I have always liked music, playing flute, recorder, and oboe as an enthusiastic child who lived in the depths of the school music room. I had to work hard, but I loved the thrill of performing. My favorite thing had always been singing and I always have sung to myself and my children all the time. So I decided to join a choir. Decision made.
It took a little while. Getting the right day and time put me off many places.
A Barbershop Chorus.
Then I saw IT… THE POSTER that was shining out like a beacon in yellow from the others on the notice board at the local playgroup. DO YOU LOVE TO SING? Barbershop four-part close harmony. Sounded interesting. Mr. Sandman popped into my mind. Yes, I liked that tune. In fact, I much prefer retro music. It was close to where I live and it mentioned fun, friendship, pubs, and cake. Exactly what I needed and was looking for. I typed the number with earnest into my phone and saved it quickly whilst hearing someone saying behind me that they would never go because they couldn’t sing. Those also waiting agreed with them. Then they talked about the delicious meal that they had been out for the night before. What meal? I knew then that I was on my own.
It took me a few days to summon the courage to dial the number. My nerves nearly stopped me. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I said something stupid? I spoke to someone and told them that it had been over 15 years since I had done any music. I couldn’t remember their name at the end of the phone call and I was trembling so much. So I saved the name as “singing person”. So that was that.
Thursday came. Another endless groundhog day. That afternoon, I straightened my wild frizzy hair because first impressions count. I didn’t want anyone to judge me on first appearances. My husband came home. I moved a lot of things around the house anxiously waiting for the clock to come round to arrive neither too late or too early. I climbed into the car ignoring the baby car seats, heart racing so much I thought I would probably explode. I was liberated. I was out of the house ON MY OWN! No kids in tow. Yes, I had to force myself to not make myself sick with worry. I parked in the car park and saw some friendly looking people getting out of their cars. Were they going my way? THEN I DID IT. I got myself together. Opened the car door and using my skills from work as confidently as I could professionally muster together… I went in.
The double doors were propped open. Inside were a handful of ladies setting up a table of tea and cakes, others with music in hand, some of them I had seen walk in whilst I was still sat down in the car park. They looked up and smiled. Someone tall with a warm face came over to me and shook my hand and introduced themselves. OMG, I was trying hard now not to ramble and concentrate on what they were saying. Three other new people also were trying out that night, and I was not alone. He mentioned something about what would be going on that night and how the chorus had only been going for a couple of weeks.. or three… Another lady with long brown hair came and said hello, then another, then another. I breathed. I asked them about themselves and they wanted to speak back to me. These people were not scary. Although we still had to get onto the music.
Time to Sing.
Firstly we had to do “warmups”. I hoped it wouldn’t be too embarrassing, so I just copied the people stood either side of me so as not to stick out by making mistakes. I just “knew” that people would be watching. The fear in me was still strong, but I tried not to let it show. Sang a few scales with everyone else and shortly had been allocated my voice part. Baritone. Sounded great even if I didn’t know what it meant at the time, other than it wasn’t a low bass, the tune (lead) or a high harmony part. I now belonged to a section and took my place in the baritones that numbered only three people with myself including the friendly lady with the long brown hair. I was given some music to follow, the pitch pipe was blown…
Then bam it hit me. I could hear and read what I needed to do. I remembered my music training from years ago. Somewhat rusty, but the basics were in place. The harmonies came up around me and I followed the other baritones in four-part gorgeous harmony and sang. And I sang and sang. All I can say is wow. Why had I not done this before?
I was home. I was happy. I relaxed and enjoyed.
The people I met that night have become my friends. Who accepts me for who I am, and are as thoughtful and passionate as I am about the music and friendship. We talk, go to concerts, the pub, away together and have our own adventures. It has given me much confidence in many areas of my life and I have found “me” again. I have no idea what my future holds for me, but I know that will include great things as I have the drive and determination to live fully again. It has changed my life.
So, if any of you, out there are stuck in a rut, lonely and want to try something new I would recommend Barbershop. I have gained friends not just in my chorus but all over the world in the year or so I have been into this. It may be really hard and scary to take that first step, but little by little it will come. You don’t even need to be able to read music as we use teacher learning tracks, so as long as you can hold a tune, you will be fine.
And if you don’t want to sing, find something else that you would like to do. We only have one chance at life.
| Hello Avon Harmony Singers and Supporters,|
I'm here to say hello and to thank Avon Harmony for allowing me to join your "purple" chorus. It is a delight to feel so supported already and I look forward to meeting you again on January 11th as your new MD rather than nervously trying out as I did in November.
I promise that I will do my best for you to allow you to grow and flourish giving you what I have now. I can't wait to share my creative energy with you and make it fun and interesting.
“Start where you are.