Harmony 303 choir


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Goodbye to Ros

There was a poignant significance to Harmony 303 ‘s  first gathering after more than a year of Lockdown silence, in singing to celebrate the life of our founder Ros Beattie who died earlier this year.

On the most beautiful summer’s day in August  in the glorious countryside setting of the Natural Burial Ground near Beaminster, thirty or more members sang for Ros in an open-sided barn overlooking fields of long grass and wild flowers. We sang in remembrance of a person whose significance to the choir is inestimable, in gratitude for all she had done,  and with sadness that she is no longer with us. Caroline led as she has for the past ten years – wonderfully familiar – singing songs from our repertoire that were particularly dear to Ros. I am sure we all felt a determination to make this performance  as good as it could be on this very special occasion, and the rafters of the barn really did seem to ring.

Friends and relatives shared memories of Ros- fascinating  to learn a bit about her active and inspiring past. Specific aspects came through, most notably Ros’s generosity- with her time, her energy , her skills and gifts- and her attention to detail which ensured that any event she was organising was meticulously planned. Harmony 303 members benefited from both; I recall Ros going to great lengths to ensure the coach used for an outing had the facility to lower, to facilitate access for less mobile members.

After the singing and service we wandered, singly and in small groups down the hill and a little way into the meadow where one of Ros’s scarves waved in the breeze marking ‘her’ spot. Scarves were very much Ros’s signature item, and as we made our way back up the hill there were stands absolutely full of her extraordinary collection, and we were all invited to help ourselves. Many were in water shades- blues, greens and turquoises  -worn by the choir for performances. Through  her scarves Ros will go on with us into the future, a tangible part of her unique legacy- the Harmony 303 choir.

Harmony on Zoom

Harmony 303 Community Choir has risen from the ashes of the Pandemic!
Felled as it was along with most other activities, it lives again-virtually. Virtual is proving more than good enough for the 30-40 of us who were missing Tuesday morning singing and so have become Zoom Harmony.
However, I realised when we gathered for the first session that it wasn’t just the singing I had missed, it was my fellow choir members too. When a phalanx of familiar thumb-sized faces – in studies, kitchens, sitting rooms et al – appeared on my computer screen it was quite a moving moment, illustrating unequivocally the bonding power of group singing.
Not of course that we can sing as a group because we are muted and hear only our leader Fran Andre – with backing music, which is a novelty for an a cappella choir. Fran has taken up the Zoom leadership of Harmony with an enthusiasm and passion much like that to which we had enjoyed with Caroline (and how lovely to see her as part of Zoom Harmony).
Fran gives us a one and a half hour programme which incorporates past repertoire and new songs- exactly right in terms of holding on to the past, but also looking forward. Under Caroline’s direction we learned many songs from other countries, most especially from Africa which we loved, and it is so pleasing that Fran shares this passion. It’s hard to teach four separate parts – even more so virtually – but Fran manages us well, singing each part and getting us to copy her as appropriate to our voice, depending on our up or down-turned thumbs to ascertain whether or not we have got it. The words of songs go into the ‘chat room’ and the backing music and sung parts into Dropbox, so we can access everything between Tuesday sessions if we want to.
Halfway through we go into ‘Break-Out Rooms’ and meet up with a random four or five choir members; it doesn’t matter who your fellow Break Outs are, it’s lovely catching up with all and any of them. Reassuringly we seem all to have survived Covid, although sadly have lost one of our number since last we were together.
However, the Zoom choir is but half of Harmony 303 – not everyone has opted or been able to join in, and they are missed. Of course, Zoom singing cannot replace what we had, but until the day we all meet again in Norton Village Hall, it is a bonus. These sessions go a long way toward making you feel as if you are singing with a choir again rather than solitary warbling to bookshelves or the

Aga. Fran is passionate and inspiring – and sings beautifully – and the end of Lockdown is in sight. Plenty for which to be very thankful.
Jenny Becker March 2021

Harmony 303 sing with local schools

In late November 2019 the Harmony 303 choir joined forces with Martock & Ash Schools & Martock U3A to give a concert in All Saints’ Church. This was the first time that both our local primary schools have been involved in a Harmony concert, and a first in terms of including members of Martock U3A and it proved to be an uplifting and happy occasion.


The evening began with Harmony’s rendition of ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, an old favourite which never fails to get an audience singing along. The last song in the first set, a traditional drinking song called ‘The Barley Mow’ also had the audience trying to join in, but it’s one of those songs that adds a bit as it goes along, which we choir members find tricky enough, so participation was limited – but had people smiling.


Ash School then sang three popular songs before being joined by Martock School, and led by their music teachers they together sang ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and a poignant ‘Can you hear my Voice?’ They watched their respective leaders impressively closely, and sounded lovely.


During the interval whilst refreshments were served, the Martock U3A Ukulele band- resplendent in bright pink- entertained with a selection of good old sing-a-longs, and many of the audience did just that, coming up to the front of the stage, cups & glasses in hand. It was fun.


Back to the singing, and Harmony 303 again opened proceedings, this time with an18th century hymn, then a rousing South African shout, and finally a beautiful arrangement of the ever-popular ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’

After which a complete change: the U3A Recorder Consort, comprising

2 descants, 2 trebles, 2 tenors and one bass recorder tootled through a programme that included Bach and Beatles; the recorders made a lovely sound in the church, notes soaring ever upwards.


Martock School sang again before being joined by the other choirs for the finale- first a delightful Appalachian Lullaby, and finishing with the appropriate ‘Taking my Song’ (All round the World) We had only once sung this together before the concert, but it sounded lovely.


It was a most enjoyable evening; there was something to suit all tastes, and all the participants looked as if they we enjoying themselves.  And with music, that really is the main thing.


Jenny Becker

An account of the trip to Catalonia





The fun started from the moment we gathered together at the departure gate at Bristol airport and gave our unsuspecting -subsequently bemused -fellow passengers a rollicking ‘Doo Ron Ron’ to send them and us skywards to Barcelona on a song. This was the Harmony 303 choir on tour starting as we meant to go on- singing for joy for three days in Catalonia.


Our first proper performance the next day was in Barcelona’s Cathedral (no, not the Gaudi) where we stood right up at the high altar, gazing down the length of this beautiful traditional space, and after an introduction in Catalan, Spanish and English from Caroline our musical director, launched into a lively spiritual. And it was at that moment that I realised just how amazing the acoustics were- the echo seemed to make our voices wrap themselves around us and enhance the clarity of each word. I thought we were sounding pretty good, but was nevertheless surprised when we were applauded because it was difficult to gauge how many of the visitors to the cathedral were pausing to listen. Well, clearly they were, and I think this gave us confidence in this potentially daunting setting, and thus encouraged, we sang through our repertoire of sacred and spiritual songs. Some songs, like ‘Alleluia,’ were so absolutely right for this unforgettable venue, and took on a life of their own, and when we reached our final song- ‘New Jerusalem’ – we gave it our all.  Our voices soared and reverberated up to the heights in a way that just can’t happen in Norton Village Hall. For me, the whole trip was made worthwhile just for that one moment.


But that was just the start, and the next day found us in our coach winding up and up and up a mountain to reach the Montserrat Monastery where we had been granted permission to sing the three songs in our repertoire which complied with the monastery’s exacting rules regarding spiritual or sacred content. Our singing was incorporated into a small service, so it felt like a privilege to be there. The setting was again inspirational, and our songs were so right within it.


Our final official performance was in the Poble Espanol- back in Barcelona; this is a sort of re-creation of ‘old’ Spain- squares and buildings reminiscent of a century ago. We stood on a sunny terrace, with an amazing city vista below us, and people just wandered in and out of the space, some stopping to listen, others more intent on the selfies the view offered as a backdrop. This was a much more relaxed sing, which suited the setting- ‘Doo Ron Ron’ was reprised, we sang a sea shanty, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and finished- appropriately- with‘Adios Hermanos’ at the end of which some Spanish ladies embraced Caroline- they had obviously loved it!  And all this- hilariously- to the cacophonous background screeching of a flock of parakeets determined to out-sing us.


On our last night we gave an informal performance in the bar of our hotel to an audience of fellow guests- mostly elderly Spaniards – who at first applauded politely rather than enthusiastically- we were, after all, just the warm up act before the disco. But as we sang on, feet started tapping, heads nodded, lots joined in with ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ We were winning them over, and when we sang a rousing ‘Happy Birthday’ for one of their number, they loved us! But the last note of our final song clearly signalled ‘Disco Time’ and they rose from their seats as one, surged on to the dance floor, and as the beat music started, began synchronised line dancing. This was serious business; unsmiling and intent, they twirled and clapped and shuffled in military formation, on and on and on, inexorably. So what could we do but join them? I shall cherish forever the sight of some of our number dancing alongside the Spanish line dancers in their own inimical way….


Our Catalonia tour was excellent, the happiest mix of singing, sight-seeing, eating, drinking, laughing, talking. Severally and together we did dozens of different things- we walked a mountain path with vertiginous drops, wandered Las Ramblas, took a tour bus, explored galleries; we watched street dancers and dozens of men women and children form a towering human column, we shopped, rode a funicular, had a silly moment with a chocolate fountain, wondered at Gaudi’s breathtaking monument, plunged into the ocean (well, just one of us). We got to know choir members from all sections, we shared, we looked out for each other. We had a very jolly last evening in the hotel bar where we demonstrated our appreciation of our wonderful musical director. We were looked after so well by all those involved in the organisation of this very successful venture, thus huge thanks to Dave our leader, and to Margaret and the team with us on the trip,  and to Ros at this end. We had the loveliest time.



Jenny Becker

November 2018

Martock & Ash Community Choir Sing for Water – again!


On a very hot Sunday morning in July 2018, some forty or more Harmony 303 singers were transported to Bristol to ‘Sing For Water’. This is a concert for which choirs learn learn the same songs over a few months, then come together for one massive performance. Each choir commits to raise a certain amount of money for Water Aid, which the charity uses to bring clean water to people in some of the poorest parts of the world- currently they are in Rwanda. This is the third time Harmony 303 have supported this initiative, and each year our choir has raised more money; this time the total raised – through craft, produce, book and pre-loved item sales, workshops, practice dvds for singers, coffee mornings et al. – was some £2,500.

The total number of singers taking part this year was in excess of 1000, so the concert was in two parts, half singing at midday, then the other half after lunch break. We were in the second half so we had chance to listen to the songs – and the sound was overwhelming. Used as we are to some 50 or 60 or so of us singing together, we were engulfed by a wave – a tsunami of sound, as 500 plus voices raised the roof of the Passenger Shed at Bristol station, all singing ‘our’ songs. Amazing!

But, if we were moved when listening, the experience of singing later was even more awesome. Surrounded by sound, and – because of excellent acoustics – able to hear all the harmonies, it was a truly uplifting experience. Interestingly, one song that some of us hadn’t much liked – ‘So Much Magnificence (in the Ocean)’ absolutely came into its own, and the final soaring crescendo of ‘Hallelujah’ from all parts of the massed choir was nothing short of the magnificence it sang of. Thus, perhaps inevitably, the simple beauty of our final song, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ proved too much, and the line ‘when tears are in your eyes…’ took on a whole new meaning for some of us. Simon & Garfunkel did well, but Harmony 303 and the massed ‘Sing for Water’ choir in a railway shed in Bristol on a hot day in July 2018 did better, believe me.

Jenny Becker

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