Harmony 303 have had cause for celebration on two occasions recently, both of which we rose to with our signature enthusiasm and enjoyment.
The first was a celebration of ourselves: the Harmony 303 choir has been singing for five years- a landmark indeed. Ros Beattie’s inspiration, that Martock & Ash should have a community choir, was realised in May 2011, when some forty or so interested people turned up at Ash Village Hall for the very first session, under the leadership of Caroline Rigby. Ros has since said that she really had not expected such a response. But that was just the beginning; today, five years down the line, we are a massive choir of 70 plus singers – with a waiting list. Perhaps the biggest change over these five years has been in the bass (male) section, which has grown from a fairly tentative handful to a hearty section of some 15 or more singers, who really make their presence felt.
And it is not just about the singing; there is a very happy camaraderie amongst Harmony 303 members – we talk, we laugh, we enjoy. Which is just what happened on our actual ‘Birthday’ which we celebrated with fizz, natch, and utterly delicious cake, courtesy of Penny, our own amazing in-house professional cake-maker. And the press came too, to help mark the occasion, teetering on step ladders in order to capture us tout ensemble on camera.
Apart from our weekly gathering – now in Norton Village Hall since we rapidly outgrew Ash – we have sung in National Trust houses, in Prague, in Martock precinct, in Bristol with a thousand other singers at the ‘Sing for Water’ event, and at a member’s funeral in Martock church. We have been saddened by the loss of two other members, and we’ve done a lot of fund-raising for WaterAid. These five years have flown by; singing is a joy to all of us, and we look forward joyfully to our next anniversary.
The second celebration that we have just enjoyed was that of the wedding of one of our members, who invited Harmony 303 to sing at the occasion. Some forty of us shared the privilege of being part of Steph’s wedding to Bob in the lovely gardens of Tintinhull House. We were scheduled to sing after the ceremony, which took place in the summerhouse, so we heard vows being exchanged in this delightful setting before assembling under a gazebo in the adjacent garden, poised ready to sing some of Steph’s very favourite songs from our repertoire as she and Bob – now man & wife – walked from the summerhouse. It is no exaggeration to say that Steph looked radiant- a vision in a long red gown and gorgeous creamy-white picture hat. Having this information- the colour scheme- in advance, the choir had endeavoured to reflect the theme, and it is wholly fair to say that we had all made a jolly good effort. Many shades of red and varieties of cream, yet all melded happily to present a united – even perhaps quite fetching-front.
And we so loved singing; most of Steph’s favourites were favourites for all of us, and we sang with gusto, opening with the rousing ‘Bamba lela’. Caroline, animated and encouraging as ever, led us from one song to the next, and we finished our first set with ‘Beyond the Sea’ Then a short break, during which we enjoyed fizz & canapés and a bit of mingling, then back to the second half, starting with the gospel-style’ Woke up this morning’ and finishing with the very apt ‘Love can Build a Bridge’ Quite emotional actually……It was all so very enjoyable from start to finish.
Harmony 303 are, I feel, rather good at celebration.