by Mary Davidson
I have been a choir member since the very beginning. I saw an advert in the Ambler for taster sessions for a possible choir in Amble, led by Ann Suggett from 20000 voices and Flora Smith. The advert stated that you did not have to be able to read music or even be able to sing.
“That’s for me” I thought and after checking that statement was for real, I went along. There were a few people I knew there too, so that was lovely.
I have always loved singing, having taken part in a school choir in my final high school year. They let us join with no audition thankfully. It was a terrific experience to sing at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh in a performance of Faure’s Requiem.
I have always remembered how wonderful that felt, so to be able to join a community choir was terrific.
Flora Smith formed the choir after the initial introductory sessions, more people joined us and in time we became “The Harbour Lights – Amble Community Choir”.
In those early years I was working as a Health Visitor in Ashington, a job I loved. It was very rewarding, but it had its challenging times too. To be able to attend choir on a Thursday evening, switch off and put the demands of the day behind me was so great. For that time, it was just about the songs, the music and the support of a great choir community. I have been retired for five years now, but remain busy as a volunteer and a proud grandmother.
Sarah Gray took over when Flora moved on. Some members moved away, other members joined us, and our choir grew to over forty members.
There have been so many choir highlights for me, including:-
Christmas songs in the early years at Alnwick Gardens,
“Sing for Water”, at the Scoop in London, where we sung our Harbour Lights song, 'Lights', which Sarah had written for our choir in the very early days.
Performing Magnificat, in Hall One at the Sage
Singing outside at the Pods in Amble
Our fabulous party evenings
Our wonderful zoom video of us singing 'Harbour Lights'
Being invited to play a special part in the Amble Bird Trail
When Carol asked me last year if I would consider being Chairperson, it came out of the blue and I said I would give it some thought. I agreed, as Harbour Lights Choir means so much to me and it is a huge honour and privilege to be Chair.
Then the pandemic hit, and lockdown happened.
Sarah introduced us all to the delights of Zoom. We wondered how that would work but knew it was definitely worth a try. We have had up to twenty-nine ‘zoomers’ joining in our sessions. It’s especially lovely to see some members who have moved away and to have new people joining us too. Zoom choir of course has its limitations and is not for everyone, unfortunately, but with our new amazing website (thank you Lesley and also Paul), and through emails, Sarah, Alison, Paul and I, aim to keep in touch with everyone. Also, a special word of thanks to Susan our Treasurer for the hard work she does behind the scenes - dealings with 'the Bank' take a great deal more time and effort since March.
For me personally, the hardest part of the first lockdown, was not seeing my three-year-old granddaughter who lives in Alnwick. Travel restrictions and then only being able to visit at a two-metre distance was not going to work. You can’t explain to a three-year-old why you can’t hug them or go inside the house. So, it’s been wonderful to be back in a family childcare support bubble again.
As that lockdown began, I became a volunteer in the local isolation support group and the Amble Foodbank, joining Elizabeth Wardle and Angela Scammell, choir members who are also Foodbank volunteers.
It was also good during that time, to walk local bridleways, along with husband Eric, walking paths we knew and finding new ones to explore.
I am even more thankful to be living in this beautiful part of Northumberland, with a good number of independent shops in our local high street and a community which comes together to support those in need.
So as with us all, there were highs and lows during that time and we now enter another period of lockdown again.
We all look to the future day when we can return to singing together, we do not know yet when that will be. One thing I know, we have a strong bond, which runs through our choir. We also have so much to thank Sarah Gray our choir leader for, keeping us going, with her wonderful enthusiasm and enabling.
The joy of choir for me is still there, as strong as ever it was.
Harbour Lights Choir has been and always will be a special part of my life, one that I am so grateful for.
(Photo entitled 'Elf on a Rock' by Eric Davidson)