After months of hard work with various mixed choruses, one life- and two current members of Black Sheep Harmony have recently picked up a hat-trick of medals each.
At the end of April, the national mixed chorus competition was held at the British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) convention in Harrogate. Our chairman Noey, our MD Emeritus David and our Assistant MD Sue were competing in two mixed choruses, Endeavour and Bristol Mix. Both of these choruses have their own stories.
Endeavour is an audition chorus with it’s roots firmly in the (relatively new in the UK) tradition of Harmony Brigade. Under the direction of Lisa Robathan and Rae Watney, Endeavourers range from all over Europe and meet about 6 times a year for intensive weekend rehearsals with a social dinner thrown in for fun (and singing Brigade songs!!). Noey, David and Sue have sung with Endeavour almost since its inception in 2018 and were absolutely thrilled to achieve silver medal place at BABS, with a score of 75.7%.
The Bristol Mix is also an audition chorus with the original aim of bringing together singers from the six Barbershop choruses in Bristol. Headed by Linda Corcoran and Craig Kehoe, TBM were formed in 2019 and aimed to meet bi-monthly but after only a couple of rehearsals, the dreaded COVID struck. Like all choruses, TBM stuck together virtually until able to meet physically and have managed just five rehearsals since then. Despite all that, Noey, David and Sue were absolutely delighted to collect GOLD medals with TBM in the chorus’s first ever singout (which happened to be on the convention stage!) with an excellent score of 78.8%.
Then, the following weekend came the European Barbershop Championships 2021+1 held in Helsingborg, Sweden. EQ Rendezvous, one of the first mixed choruses formed in the UK, went on tour to Sweden as the 2017 IABS (Irish Association of Barbershop Singers) champions. Under the direction of Dick and Delyth Knight, EQR is made up solely of people from all over Europe who have taken part in either the Extreme Quartet stream of Harmony College or Harmony Brigades. Singing in an extreme quartet IS the audition for this chorus, and it has been in existence almost as long as mixed Barbershop has. The trio of Black Sheep were again delighted to pick up a medal with EQR, bronze this time with a score of 74.8%.
What an exciting couple of weekends - three medals apiece in a space of six days!!
Saturday 12th March - an auspicious date for Black Sheep!
We've finally been let loose into the world for our first competition since the start of Covid
- the Mid-Somerset Festival in Bath. And the first competition since Pete Nugent joined us as MD!
Nerve wracking of course, as always, we met up in the YMCA early in the morning to warm up and have a last minute practice. We'd already had a dress run at our usual rehearsal on Thursday, dressing up in our own black outfits with red corsages.
Then it was off to St Swithin's Church at the top of Walcott Street for our first class - the Popular or Show Song Class. We were singing "Anthem" from Chess (very appropriate in the current world situation) and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".
As this was the first festival since Covid struck, the classes were small, only 5 entrants in this class, however we were deemed one of the top 3 choirs to compete. We were praised by the day's experienced adjudicator, Rob Elliot, for our mix of voices (unaccompanied of course, unlike all the other choirs) especially the broad bass section, and our timing. So we didn't win the class but we did achieve a Distinction, with a score of 87-89/100. An amazing achievement after the uncertainty of the last two years with all those Zoom rehearsals!
A quick break for lunch and back we are again competing in the Female Voice choirs class, this time singing our latest song, Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" plus our ABBA medley. And another Distinction achieved! The comment from the adjudicator for "And So It Goes" was very complimentary: "Lovely blend, and a warm tone produced a very attractive rendition of this great song". Plus for the ABBA medley he said "A very demanding opening, achieved with ease. You have to be focused to pull this off- and you did!"
Distinction in both classes we entered, we couldn't have asked for more - well, apart from winning the classes, of course! 😉
A huge thank ewe to Pete for leading us up to and through the whole day. Despite our nerves he managed to keep us focused on the task and singing at our best.
And not forgetting all the Sheep who have joined us in the last year and who were competing with us for the first time. Well done all of you!
After the competitions it was time to let our hair down and we certainly did! Great fun had in Browns with the drinks flowing and singing of course, with people asking us to sing Happy Birthday to their friends and loved ones, we were all in our element. Thanks to Melanie for gathering in the birthday requests, that must be where you were when the photos were being taken!
Our fab-ewe-lous MD Pete Nugent arrived back at rehearsal last night for the first time since Christmas, and he didn't come alone.
We were so proud to see him sporting a wonderful gold medal around his neck, won at the World 2022 International Seniors Quartet Contest, at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Midwinter Convention in Pasadena.
His quartet, One Foot in the Stave, performed brilliantly to not only win the Seniors competition, but also attain the highest score of everyone competing at the Convention. What an achievement! With the win, One Foot In The Stave also becomes the first quartet from outside North America to win the seniors championship in the event’s 36-year history!
One Foot in the Stave: Rod Butcher, tenor; Brian Schofield, lead; Andy Funnell, bass; Pete Nugent, baritone
Their return was not all plain sailing as not only did Pete and the other members of the quartet arrive home with their precious metal, they also brought back the dreaded lurgy, Covid!! Hopefully they have all now recovered sufficiently to return to singing, and in Pete's case rehearsal, as he did last night. Boy, were we pleased to have him back in the flock!
Check out the video of One Foot in the Stave winning the gold medal and an enormous trophy (how did they get that on the plane home?!) and their encore performance:
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With the LABBS Convention yet again cancelled for 2021, we were tasked with creating a new video for the LABBS Showcase held in place of convention at the end of October.
Our latest venture, a medley of Queen songs, seemed the most appropriate and in September we held a recording day when groups of up to 12 members came together in recording studio style to record the medley and also some other songs to be used for a future project. Pete had a very long day starting early one Sunday morning, setting up the mixing desk system and microphones, not finishing until the evening after the 3 recording sessions and then clearing the equipment. What a wonder he is!
While sound editing continued, I started work on the video recording. We tried to involve as many members as possible with some different scenarios for the varied songs in the medley. "Bicycle" was one track so, with 13 members on bikes taking part both in the park and in their gardens, we had some great footage, even using a drone to get shots from the air.
"Another One Bites the Dust" was also great fun, as members scouted around our rehearsal venue pursuing Sue (as Steve) with Nerf guns, provided by Sally's son - thank you, Joshua!
Some other special effects, with an idea put forward by Cat, involved members flying through the sky and was hilarious to set up on the stage in our hall. And Chris played her part well as Lady Godiva with her sports car! Green screen technology can be a godsend but tricky to execute properly especially when it's windy!
Debbie and I dressed up as Freddie Mercury and Brian May, and we also recreated the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody, albeit in daylight with no uplit effect.
We also thank Amersham A Cappella who kindly provided a photo of the Somerset Rose Bowl for us to use, tongue in cheek, for "We are the Champions"!
Eventually, after the mammoth edit, I was able to add in our finished sound track which has an amazing blend of our individual voices, thanks to Pete's magic!
We hope you enjoy the finished video which represents the individuality of our members and the fun we have together.
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Recently, two of our members, Noey and Sue, took part in two Mixed Virtual Harmony Brigades
In normal times, during a Harmony Brigade, a group of Barbershoppers from far and wide get together to sing. However, it’s not as straightforward as just singing songs! Before the events, the participants are usually given three or four months to learn twelve songs in their chosen voice-part to performance standard.
There are two main aspects of a Harmony Brigade. The first is to sing one of the twelve songs in quartet with every other participant. If you sing with all the people in the other three voice-parts, marking them off on your “dance card” as you do so, you win a “Tramp” award. If you can learn a song in a second voice-part, you can also sing in quartet with those singing your own voice-part and achieve “Supertramp” status!
The second (and almost as important as the first) part is the competition. There is a draw where participants are randomly assigned three other quartet members and a song from the twelve. Everyone is given around ten minutes to come up with a quartet name and rehearse the song, probably for the first time in that particular quartet configuration. This is called Extreme Quartetting!! Following the short rehearsal, each extreme quartet then performs in front of everyone else and a judging panel. Fun but nerve-wracking!!
To qualify for participation, singers have to demonstrate their competence in each of three songs randomly chosen from the twelve. You can have five attempts, but if you don’t eventually pass, you can’t enter the draw for the competition or perform in the show.
The winning quartet gets to sing on the evening show, but everyone has a chance to perform in the Brigade Chorus along with guest acts, some of which will have been auditioned from members of the Brigade.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Harmony Brigades have been very different, being forced online like so many other activities. Different formats have been used in the recent Brigades, but the rehearsals have all been the same, singing together in (almost) real time using Jamulus. This has been one of the joys of the brigades.
On the weekend of the 9th July, Noey and Sue attended the European Virtual Harmony Brigade, which would have been in Germany. Around 50 singers from America and Europe learnt six songs and the whole event actually took place live on Jamulus and Zoom over a weekend. The evening show was broadcast live on YouTube by WorldJam productions, and the weekend was huge fun. It was as near to the real Brigade experience as possible without leaving your home. “Like a real Brigade, but without the hugs!”
The following weekend it was the Mixed Virtual Harmony Brigade of New England, which would have been held in the USA, and also included singers from all over America and Europe.
We again learnt six songs in our chosen voice part, practising them during Jamulus run-throughs in the couple of months leading up to the event, then sent in recordings made at home of ourselves singing each of the songs.
A week before the event, we were randomly assigned our quartets and a song picked from the six. Our previously recorded audio tracks were then mixed into competition quartet entries and the members of each quartet got together to agree a name and create a video for entry into the Harmony Brigade competition.
During the competition, the resulting videos were shown to the other Brigaders who judged each other’s performances. The members of Sue’s quartet - "Dear John" - were thrilled to be judged in bronze medal position, 3rd out of 16 quartets, singing “Angel Eyes” by Earl K Brent, music by Matt Dennis, arr. Hal Maples.
Here is a link to the video of Dear John’s third placed competition entry:
The evening show featured various acts including Black Sheep Harmony’s in-house quartet, The SongSmiths, singing Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” arranged by Joey Minshall. The audio track was mixed by our very own Pete Nugent and the video created by Noey McElwee.
Here is a link to the SongSmiths’ video: https://youtu.be/qeIn-GMKMgs
Earlier in the year, in February, Noey and Sue also took part in the UK Virtual Harmony Brigade, normally held in Nottingham. This Brigade was in the same format as the MVHBNE, using pre-recorded voice-parts mixed to make virtual quartets.
This time it was Noey’s quartet, “The Bristol Variant“, that was voted into second place by the other participants.
They were singing “Fly Me to the Moon” by Bart Howard, arr. Roger Payne:
All three events were great fun, but hopefully, the next one will be the real thing!
|Black Sheep Penned In.|
Since March 2020, Zoom has become our greatest weapon against Covid! The pandemic has been especially challenging for Black Sheep Harmony as the initial lockdown coincided with our new MD, Pete “Nooj” Nugent’s debut. He has yet to lead a physical rehearsal. He’s done an amazing job, keeping us together and learning so thank you Pete. Our rehearsals are important to our members, and we’ve continued them throughout. Although unable to sing together as before, we can still warm up and sing along to our repertoire whilst muted (and we always sing beautifully!).
But at present, the social aspect of our meetings takes priority. We include items such as desert island discs; quizzes; show and tell, and our latest – “Who are Ewe” (we love a Sheep pun!) - we share something that nobody else knows! These items and the ability to chat together have been crucial, helping us feel connected and supported during this difficult year. We’ve even been able to continue recruitment, a real achievement in such challenging times.
We are especially proud of Zoom Into Christmas, our 5 week online course for women of all singing abilities in Nov and Dec 2020 which had 3 main aims –
- Teach two Christmas songs in four-part harmony to both the chorus and the course delegates and produce a Christmas Choir video;
- Help attendees improve or even find their singing voice with a range of vocal techniques which they could take away;
- Spread the joy of singing and encourage people to take it up.The final week was a celebration of achievement with certificates being awarded. We had 80 registrants and many of the local ladies enjoyed it enough to return! We are delighted to have welcomed 7 auditionees directly as a result of the course, to add to the other 4 who have joined us during lockdown.
To see our Christmas Choir singing Little Saint Nick, click on this link
Desert Island Discs
During our Zoom meetings, I suggested that we have a Desert Island Discs item. As it was my idea, of course I went first! My choice was Climb Every Mountain from Sound of Music. Not only is it an inspirational song, it reminded me of the time that my grandmother to took me to see it when my brother was born (he's now 51). Plus I was named after Julie Andrews .... Just wish I had her voice!
Luckily other choir members contributed, (too many to mention here), but it was great to hear music which inspired and influenced people. Some were happy, others sad, but of equal importance in our lives.
I had three favourites. They were from Sandra, Pat and Debbie C.
Sandra’s song was 'Twist and Shout'. Back in the 60s, she saw the Beatles in concert at Weston Super Mare, spent 2 days outside their hotel and even sneaked into their bedroom when no-one was watching (don’t try this yourself!). She ‘pinched’ a card from a pack of new Y-fronts in the wardrobe and even returned the following day to get the fab four to autograph the card. Sandra has that precious pants insert to this day.
Pat chose "That'll be the day" which was playing at her local youth club when Alan, (her husband to be), asked her for a dance. We saw photos of the young Pat and Alan, they made a very handsome couple. This song evokes wonderful memories for her, but sad ones too as it was also played at his funeral.
Finally, Debbie C selected Hi Ho Silver Lining by Jeff Beck. This reminded her of the time she was a teenager and went caravanning with her parents at Caravan Club rallies. In her words, she was bored and joined the youth club/disco which became much more over the years. She developed lasting friendships and went on many holidays with the club. In Debbie's words "It stopped her from being an unruly youth". Who'da thought it!
Because of the ongoing restrictions to singing due to COVID, our rehearsals are still all virtual. While online rehearsals are not in any way a substitute for singing together, they continue to keep us connected and Black Sheep Harmony members are still making the most of these challenging times.
We think that it is important to concentrate on the social aspect of our weekly meetings so although we do have a schedule of songs to practice, we are constantly coming up with new activities to keep things fun and fresh! One of the things that we enjoy is a weekly “Show and Tell” section during our Zoom rehearsals, with a different theme every week and there have been a wide variety to date. There is no obligation to take part, but many do and those that don’t, enjoy the varied and interesting stories that accompany the items.
“Souvenirs” where many of us shared items which brought back memories of events or holidays, including a very special piece of Beatles memorabilia (a signed cardboard insert from a pack of Y fronts!).
Cat’s cat Merlin - Cat says “In my office we used to have a ‘secret Santa’ at Christmas. One year I opened my present and was confused by two tiny Santa hats – I realised my giver knew I had two cats, and the hats were meant for them! So I tried it out with Merlin, who is not the most congenial or cooperative of cats - he was not impressed – he coughed and choked as if convinced I was trying to strangle him. He turned and glared at me, but wore it long enough for me to take this photo".
“Transport” brought us a variety of much loved conveyances (including a white 2CV which was used in a wedding fleet and a Hillman Avenger with a papier-mâché dashboard) most of which ended up on the scrap heap.
Debbie showed us a family portrait of her Mum in the 1940s, holding a chicken while wearing a yellow smocked dress, a hand me-down from her cousin. The painting shows the Chilterns where her grandfather was landlord of a country pub following relocation from London. Debbie remembers it hanging above the fireplace in the family home and it remains with her Mum to this day.
There were also a couple of upholstery projects, an adorable handmade felt duck toy from the 1940s and a stunning yellow orchid which flowered after many barren years.
Sophie showed us a lamp which she found at a flea market, only to be delighted when it turned out to be by a famous designer - “It's the only thing I have bought at a second hand market that I was pleasantly surprised by. Turns out it is an Ingo Maurer design, I didn't know it at the time!”
Kay amazed us with a stunning gold and uncut sapphire ring (AD 1219-1538) which she unearthed during an archeological dig in Stoke on Trent. It was found on the finger of a skeleton underneath Hulton Abbey and which went to the British Museum as it is treasure trove. It was subsequently purchased by the local Hanley Museum where it was put on display.
Ruth told us how she had trained and completed her 4th NHS Couch to 5K during lockdown despite battling with ulcerative colitis (well done Ruth).
Nicky showed us before and after photos of her garden improvements - it is now a fairy grotto with lights, rock gardens and even a little pond for frogs! The perfect place to relax during lockdown - as long as the fairies don't mind...
Julie’s upholstery project also came into the “yellow” category. She told us “It's an American Rocking chair which I bought for £30. I stripped it back, sanded and varnished then re-upholstered. It was the first time I have used weaving. I was procrastinating for a while, then was motivated to finish during lockdown”.
Sue decided to take up patchwork again after a break of 30 years, but in miniature! “In my 20s I started making a patchwork quilt cover, it was huge but I never finished it and it languishes in a cupboard somewhere. I thought I’d have another go at patchwork as it’s the perfect thing to do when you can’t go out, but to make it different, I'd keep it small and topical. I made a piece of fabric out of inch wide hexagons cut from a variety of scraps and then used it to make a mask - I was very pleased with it and no-one else has one the same!”.
Black Sheep are keeping virtual rehearsals fun and sociable and as a result of items such as Show and Tell, we are probably finding out more about each other than we ever would if we were stood on the risers so every cloud has a silver lining!
As a chorus, we have really struggled with the lack of physical singing together, especially being a harmony chorus where hearing one another sing is so important. Zoom just does’t hack it!
Preparations are afoot to try to get back to some sort of normality with our Covid leaders, Sue & Joanna, sorting out the logistics of proper rehearsals. However, when we do meet, we will need to wear masks and normal masks just won’t work - we wouldn’t be able to open our mouths wide enough to sing.
With the help of a fantastic Facebook group “Masks for Singing” I explored the designs suggested on the page and copied and cut out the templates. Making an initial mask or two led to amending the design again with help from the group and we were ready for the off.
All the members of the chorus who intend to get together singing chose 2 cotton fabrics from the stash I had purchased. Noey helped tremendously at this stage by getting acrylic templates of the design made up. That meant the cutting out (using a rotary knife) became so much easier.
Then the hard graft started. I decided to make the masks batch style, completing one stage on all the masks before moving on to the next. This meant the process became easier as it became automatic and I then didn’t need to refer to the complicated instructions repeatedly.
I added three internal strips of fabric so that wearers could add in an extra filter layer if they choose plus an external nose wire casing on the top piece of the mask and a buttonhole with adjustable elastic for the bottom. I felt this was necessary so that we achieve a good fit for the mask no matter what shape or sized face the wearer has.
Putting all the pieces together I used the burrito method, where all the seams are enclosed - quite fiddly but a much neater and professional finish.
Singers had the choice of ear loops or elastic going around the head, both adjustable for the same reason.
The form of the mask was created using plastic canvas - a flexible plastic with lots of holes in it making breathing less difficult than using an interfacing. The first design used long cable ties or corsetry boning to make the shape however this left the middle section prone to collapse after washing so it wasn’t ideal.
So now a total of 34 have been made and I am about to start another smaller batch. We just need our rehearsal venue to open and we are ready to sing!!
After finishing our successful video of “Anthem”, we were all raring to go on another lockdown project. Anthem is an emotional ballad, so we felt a change of tempo and sentiment was needed and what better than the current song we were learning, “That Man”, made famous by the wonderful Caro Emerald! We were loving the four part harmonies arranged by our very own Pete Nugent.
For “Anthem” we had combined both audio and video recording in one go but had found it so stressful trying to get not only the notes and words right but performing to the camera at the same time. Not to mention making sure our background was suitable! So this time we recorded the audio separate from the video, a much easier task for everyone. All our individual audio files were sent off to Pete for him to work his magic and then the fun began.
I had no real conception for the video at that stage however I wanted to show people doing things they enjoyed and, with some lovely weather imminent, decided that garden shots would be ideal. As lockdown was starting to ease it was the perfect opportunity for some of us to gather in small socially isolating groups in several member’s gardens, using individual’s gardens for the rest. The brief was to think of something to do while the filming was taking place, and I was amazed by the number of different activities that the chorus came up with, from gardening in all sorts of forms, drinking tea and alcohol (pretend of course !), doing sudoku, throwing games, playing cards, painting (the artistic kind), cleaning windows and so the list goes on.
The hardest part for me was on the hottest day of June when temperatures reached the mid 30’s and I was stuck in the sun for over 6 hours while filming 10 people at two venues. But I can say it was worth it as everyone stepped up to the mark and gave it everything. I’m the only one who has seen the complete videos of each singer at full size, and it was a delight to edit each individual performance.
But then the hard work began! Anyone who has edited video will appreciate the time it takes to produce just a few seconds of finished clip, however this project is five and half minutes long and I needed inspiration.
The whole process has taken two months from start to finish, but I believe that the time spent was worth the effort, and hope that everyone who watches it will smile. On a personal note it was so lovely to meet up with each member, albeit for a short period of time, while we had fun filming. And a huge thank you to Sue F, Sandra, Lyn & Sophie who opened up their gardens for socially distanced filming of other members.
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Even though us singers are still unable to meet physically, we are fortunate to be able to meet virtually and this enables us to carry on not only with rehearsals but also with chorus administration.
We have recently held our 8th AGM but of course it was a very different meeting to the previous seven as it was held via Zoom.
It is traditional at the AGM to hear a report from our Music Director but this year it was different, we had TWO MDs to present reports! The first was from our outgoing MD David Proud and the second from the new MD recruit, Pete Nugent.
David started his report by remembering how eight years ago he wanted to create a chorus where "music is king" and was based on a rich sound and simple friendship but was also low cost. With less than ten members, no music, risers or money, Black Sheep Harmony was born. The chorus quickly grew as the word spread locally and soon began to win prizes at music festivals and competitions.
David mentioned several competitions and events where the chorus was praised for its rich, resonant sound. For him, amongst the most notable were the two singouts at Bitton Railway Station. Another was the Reception for the Chairman of South Gloucestershire Council where Black Sheep Harmony provided the after dinner entertainment and looked stunning in black dresses with eye catching yellow corsages. Although we didn’t know it at the time, this was to be David's final singout as MD so it was doubly special as he felt that we had produced the best sound he had heard in recent years.
David reflected it had been a difficult decision to retire but he was delighted with the appointment of Pete “Nooj” Nugent as his successor. He felt the chorus was very lucky indeed to have found Pete as he was “top director material” and he referred to Pete's fantastic baritone voice and many gold medals!
Pete then said he had been made to feel very welcome and mentioned it was a two-way process for everyone; both chorus and director learning and growing over time. He wanted to thank the chorus for the first few weeks and also to thank David for handing over the reins to him. He said he looks forward to the Zoom rehearsals each Thursday.
Pete is also looking forward to building on David’s work with the chorus by further developing Black Sheep and taking us to new heights! Although we are in challenging times, he has been inspired by his Dad's approach to look for the good in any situation.
At the end of the meeting, we couldn’t let David’s achievements go unremarked so, as you can see in the photo, we all thanked him personally with our own individual thank you messages!
|Ever since lockdown started in March, Black Sheep Harmony, like so many other choruses, have been meeting virtually on Zoom to rehearse. For us, it’s so much more, as our founder MD David Proud stepped down just as the lockdown started to be replaced by an amazing new gent, Pete “Nooj” Nugent. Although Pete hasn’t had a single rehearsal in charge, the transition has been b-ewe-tifully managed. Virtual rehearsals have included warm-ups from YouTube, singing through the four tracks of the week with each sheep muted. Breakouts into sectional rooms are next, giving us a chance to learn our two new songs and isolate problematic parts of older repertoire. After the 8 o’clock Clap for Carers there’s the educational segment (Mongolian throat-singing anyone?) and finally a good old catch-up in How are Ewe? For some of us this is the highlight of a quiet week. |
Despite all this online fun, we’ve been missing singing together and performing, so the music committee decided to make a video, but not just any video. We are so lucky to have the combined talents of videographer Kathy Farrell and tech genius Nooj to make us look and sound fantastic. The LABBS polecat “Anthem” seemed to fit the mood of the times. However there was a fortnight’s worth of anguish as sheep tried to get their heads round the technical challenges of playing a special track in one ear on one device whilst filming on another, with nothing distracting in the background and not chopping off your own head in the shot. Not to mention the difficulties of finding a quiet time and space in homes with children / pets / partners wanting to get in on the act. Then there were the camera-shy ewes, those who are trying to work full-time from home, and the new recruit who had to learn the song first. And finally, we had to abandon our PJs and get glammed up with make-up and presentable hair!
The grand unveiling at rehearsal this week was greeted with acclaim and cries of “Let’s do another one!”. Cue groans from our video editor and MD. So, I invite you to give the final product a watch - just pick 'Anthem' from our Have a Listen Page, or view on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BlackSheepHarmonyLadiesChorus/
|The world feels very different at present, but Black Sheep Harmony is still singing!|
In a few short weeks, like most of the global population, we have gone from happy little sheep, wandering where we will to being penned up, unable to go anywhere or visit friends and family.
We have tried our best to keep in contact with each other on social media and sing “together” using video conferencing, and although it is great fun, it just isn’t the same!
It’s not a perfect situation but we are all grateful to this technology for keeping us connected, providing very welcome distraction and preventing us from feeling too isolated.
All singing groups are finding ways to cope with these challenges but for The Sheep, it has been a particularly difficult time. Our wonderful Director and founder member, David Proud was due, after eight years of dedicated leadership, to hand over the reins to our incoming MD, Pete “Nooj” Nugent. This was to happen at a special celebration evening, but then Lockdown happened!!
Our first ever Zoom rehearsal coincided with Pete’s first, what a difficult way to start, but he did a fantastic job.
It was a great success and as Pete hosted our first online get together, with input from the music team, the format for our Zoom meetings was established.
We are still learning, but we have had fun with highly topical warmups, practice of repertoire songs, sectional breakout rooms and educational segments. We even manage to have a mini break to celebrate the hugely difficult work of NHS and other essential frontline workers.
The evenings have been rounded off b-ewe-tifully with a “how are ewe” session. This social part of the evening is as much fun (at this stage, a tipple of your choice is an optional extra!), and as important as the singing part!
We are still open for business and although our current rehearsals are very different to normal ones, Black Sheep Harmony would still love to welcome new and even returning members.
Please contact us through the website or Facebook, we’d love to hear from you!
|This event has been cancelled due to the CoronaVirus pandemic. |
Black Sheep Harmony are delighted to be holding their 3rd annual Vintage and PreLoved Fair on Saturday 6th June at Hanham Community Centre.
Loads of stalls for you to browse and buy from.
We are running our hugely popular Vintage Tea Room served on vintage china and also there will be live entertainment from roving barbershope quartets throughout the day. Plus tombola and raffle.
The Flock have done it again! Even with a substantial reduction in numbers due to summer holidays, The Black Sheep put on a great show at The Avon Valley Railway 150th Gala Celebration event.
The many happy visitors enjoyed lunch, evocative rides on a vintage train or bus, and the opportunity to browse local trade stands and displays from local museums. There was plenty of warm sunshine and cooling ice cream for all as they were entertained by The Sheep singing their hearts out to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the line.
It was a busy, interesting and very rewarding afternoon at a lovely location which was enjoyed by all!
Congratulations to Avon Valley Railway on holding such a successful event.
Black Sheep Harmony said a big thank you to Pam for all her hard work for the group as treasurer. Pam is a founder member of Black Sheep, and has been our treasurer since those early days.
She has worked tirelessly to keep our accounts in order, and has ensured a smooth transition by supporting our new treasurer, Cat.
We were delighted to present Pam with some gift vouchers for her to spend as she wishes. She intends to buy something special for her garden to remind her of her time as the Black Sheep Treasurer.
Thank you Pam, from all of us!
Last night, Black Sheep Harmony were thrilled to sing at the recording of the BBC Radio Bristol Christmas Celebration. A hardy few arrived in the afternoon to do a sound check which got us in the mood for the main event later in the evening.
We were sharing our green room with a fabulous young acapella group, The Bristol Suspensions, and during the evening were treated to a private performance of two of their songs. Thanks guys!
The concert, in aid of “The BBC Radio Bristol Alive Appeal” was performed to a large and very appreciative audience of around 500 people in the Anson Rooms in Clifton. A fantastic selection of excellent local talent was presented, and we were so pleased to be part of it. The appeal is aiming to raise £50,000 to change the lives of older people where we live.
We performed two sets of two songs. In the first set, we sang “O Holy Night”, as arranged by our own MD, David Proud, and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. In the second set we treated the audience to “Carol of the Bells” and finished on a high with “Let it Snow”. Sadly, David was poorly with the Christmas lurgy and had to stay in bed with a hot toddy, so the chorus was directed by assistant MD, Sue Davis.
It was a great evening, the Sheep sang beautifully and it ended with everyone, audience and performers, singing a fun Christmas song together in a round. A rousing finale indeed!
The programme is due to be broadcast by BBC Radio Bristol on Christmas Eve at 6pm and again on Christmas Day at 9am. Tune in and enjoy!
The Black Sheep have got the festive season off to a flying start with three very different, but all fantastic sing outs.
Firstly, we sang at a special Christmas promotional event at Fonthill Garden Centre, Bitton. What a great evening! There were mince pies, Christmas treats from various local producers and a brass band to complete the festive feel. Thanks to the lovely staff and customers at Fonthill for a fab-ewe-lous evening.
Then, on a rainy Saturday morning we were invited to sing at Tesco Staple Hill as part of the Christmas on the Hill event where we were able to raise money for our chosen charity, Young Minds. Thank you to all the lovely shoppers for their donations and to the Tesco staff for making us feel so welcome. The chocolate reindeer were a real treat!
We then decamped to Hanham where we had a stall at the Christmas Fair, then finished the day by singing for the Hanham Hall Residents and their children. The grownups loved the singing and the children were so excited to be visiting Santa in his grotto. Susie, the organiser said “I just had to tell you how much I LOVED your choir this evening . What an amazingly enthusiastic choir you are, with beautiful strong voices and fantastic harmonies. I loved the whole ‘oneness’ of your choir and the diversity of your repertoire. You were all mesmerising and magical”.
It was a busy day and a lovely evening rounded off with mulled wine and mince pies.
Christmas starts here!
There will be vintage and pre-loved clothing and accessories, kitchenalia, china and glassware, bric-a-brac and gifts, and handcrafted items made from reclaimed materials. Local high street charities will also be well represented.
Come and enjoy traditional refreshments served on antique china at the Black Sheep Vintage Tea Room whilst being entertained by one of our roving Barbershop ensembles..
Enter the raffle to win one of our fabulous gift boxes.
Tables and/or rails are available at £10 each. To book a pitch, go to the upcoming events at the bottom of the page, or go to “News and Events” and click on “Upcoming Events”.
Mary Williams moves to Pastures N-ewe.
It was with very mixed emotions that Black Sheep Harmony said farewell to Mary at our first rehearsal of the year in January 2018. She leaves us to take up the exciting new role of Music Director at another Bristol chorus, Avon Harmony.
Good Luck Mary!
|A year in the life of Black Sheep Harmony. See and hear what we get up to as a matter of course!|
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Here at Black Sheep Harmony, not only do we sing well but we craft well too.
Many of us have handicrafts as our hobbies – everything from knitting, sewing, growing plants, making “make it yourself” kits, making fudge and homemade chocolates, homemade cordial, and gin making - not to mention the cakes! J
So, early in 2016 we decided to host our very own craft fair. We hired the hall, contacted stall holders, recruited volunteers to make cakes and sell teas and coffees on the day, had a huge banner made for outside the hall and decided we would sing a few songs on the day.
It was a huge success. We worked hard, getting to the hall early to set up the tables and organise the stall holders and help them set up. The doors opened at 10am and people drifted in and spent their money on unique handmade items. We all took a turn in the kitchen, selling refreshments and homemade cakes and we sang a few songs for the shoppers and stall holders. The feedback from the stall holders was excellent – some of them said it was one of the best fair’s they’ve done. We packed up at 13.00 exhausted but pleased that it had gone well.
And, we are doing it all again this year but bigger and better. This year we will be at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall and have 30+ stall holders booked for our event on 11th November 2017.
On a smaller scale, we have a craft table at our rehearsal on the first Thursday of each month. Members bring all sorts to sell – this month we had beautiful handcrafted sets of 3 tubes on wooden stands filled with sweets, bath salts and gin (Gin does feature quite prominently with us Sheep!), handmade cot blankets and tote bags, homemade fudge and handcrafted gin(see what I mean!) and home-grown vegetables and plants. Last month we had hand sewn aprons, bags and bunting. We raised over £50 for our funds this month.
So it’s not all about singing – it’s about crafting too!
|The Black Sheep entertain Chipping Sodbury.|
On a crisp and sunny winter Saturday in early December, the Black Sheep brought Christmas cheer to Chipping Sodbury. Our Christmas repertoire had its first public airing of 2016 at Barnhill Court where the lovely residents gave us such a warm welcome. We entertained them with a wide variety of Christmas arrangements, some carols, such as "Silent Night" and "The Coventry Carol", popular songs, "Let it Snow" being the chorus favourite, and even a Wassail thrown in for good measure! We were then treated to hot drinks and delicious cakes which helped keep us warm as the afternoon unfolded.
And my goodness, did we need keeping warm! As we left Barnhill Court, the glorious winter sunshine had been replaced by threatening clouds and a very chilly wind! We then took part in the festivities of the Chipping Sodbury Victorian Day. There was so much going on, many stalls selling everything Christmassy, gifts, foods, treats, even mulled wine! There were a variety of working steam engines and steamrollers, all kept in tip-top condition, despite their age. There was even a Town Cryer! As darkness fell, the lights twinkled as the steam drifted by.
The Black Sheep followed some fabulous displays of dance and gymnastics from very talented young people, and we assembled on the trailer. As we sang our Christmas repertoire, wrapped in our Christmas scarves and hats, decorated with tinsel, the audience grew and became ever more appreciative. David, however, became ever colder as he was receiving the full blast of the icy wind! It is always challenging singing in the open air, but we rose to the challenge, and were very well received. It was a lovely, festive start to our Christmas season, and we are looking forward to many more sing outs in the coming weeks.
Black Sheep Harmony Ladies Chorus
If there's one thing I've learned about singing it's that you need never stop learning about singing! There is always further to go, more to learn. When I first started singing it was in the chorus of a small amateur dramatics group. Productions are taken very seriously and much work goes in to learning words and tunes. When I was cast in my first principle role, acting and singing solo, I thought it couldn't get more serious than that. Singing solo is a different ball game, and holding a tune against an orchestra and chorus is challenging, even when it's s a well known melody.
As I became more comfortable with battling the orchestra alone, the next step was duetting with another character and it was then that I started being asked to sing simple harmonies. This awakened in me a love for singing in harmony which just cannot be satisfied by singing solo.
Fast forward a year or so and I joined a local choir. The leap from show tunes and old time music hall to classical and sacred music was exciting, and the choir sang in four part harmony, soprano, alto, tenor and bass (SATB) and singing alto, I was able to scratch that harmony itch! In both of the choirs I have sang in, singers are allowed to use sheet music, and whilst this is a useful crutch, it does mean that often the singers are not following the primary rule...."Watch the Conductor". Again, I thought that singing couldn't get much more challenging.
Then it happened! A friend from my drama group invited me to join a small, newly formed group called Black Sheep Harmony Ladies Chorus. She told me that they were ladies who sang in four part harmony in the Barbershop style. Having only heard Barbershop on The Simpsons, I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for. I was mistaken. From the first chord I was hooked, it was completely different to anything I'd done before.
The learning is done differently, instead of practicing with music at rehearsal, the learning is done at home with teach track and sheet music, so that when you get to rehearsal, you can start singing the song straight away. All without any instruments, and eventually without sheet music!! Vocal lines are named after the male Barbershop lines of tenor (the highest harmony part), lead (usually but not always sings the tune), baritone (fills in all the fabulous harmonies in the middle) and bass (the lowest of the harmony parts). I was lucky to be asked to sing baritone, a vocal part as rewarding as it is challenging.
But if you thought that singing was just getting the right words and notes in the right order, then think again. There is so much more to it! Every week, we are given lessons in techniques to improve vocal quality, breathing, vowel matching, even posture. It all affects the sound made by the chorus.
Thanks to joining Black Sheep Harmony, I now have the absolute pleasure to sing with three other chorus members in a quartet called The SongSmiths, and we have competed on the national stage as well as singing at local concerts and events. I feel that maybe this could be the pinnacle of my singing, that my singing "career" has led me to this point, and yet, I still have so much to learn. I am still on my musical journey, along with all the other ladies in the chorus and quartet, and it is such a joy!
Singing with others in close harmony brings people closer together, and the sense of achievement when it all goes right is incredible, it really does make you feel good.
Sue Davis, Baritone!
| Well, who would have thought this time last year that I would have singing as a new hobby……and be a sheep?! Certainly not me. I have always liked singing, but all I had done in my role as a nursery nurse in school was leading 3 to 4 year olds through rhymes and songs each with an average of four rhyming lines to learn. No great feat! In fact, I wasn’t even sure I could sing grown-up stuff. Oh and I did get as far as grade 1 piano aged 7, but that really is as far as my musical knowledge went. So it is with great pleasure and surprise that I find myself immersed in this new pastime. It has been an exciting challenge and revelation to find that, I DO have the ability to learn the words and sing the notes of the BlackSheep repertoire. |
This is all due to the wonderful opportunity to join the 'Learn2sing' course last September. When I first heard BlackSheep sing, I was bowled over by the fantastic sound, complicated harmonies and a singing style which I had hardly ever come across before. As I loved what I heard, so my journey began. Under the exceptional encouragement of David. With the terrific support, time and patience offered by Kathy. Along with the welcome from all the chorus, I began to think that maybe I can sing a bit. So, with the aid of sheet music, teacher tracks and time spent very definitely alone in the kitchen, here I am enthusically learning all the songs and starting to make "sheep puns".
I have found that becoming a BlackSheep (it is great to have a darker side when known as ‘Mrs Sensible’) has meant joining a group of people who offer friendship, laughs, fun, challenge and experiences that are often on the unusual side. I’m really pleased and grateful that I have had this opportunity to realise the joy of singing. This new world only opened up because of the huge amount of work, organisation and commitment the chorus made in starting the Learn2sing classes, and all the support offered since then.
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|Didn't we have a luverly time the day we went to the Gin Festival?|
Six thirsty sheep (Nicky, Kathy, Ann, Sue D, Mary W and Noey) went along to the first Bath Gin Festival held at the Guild Hall (a place we know and love so well) and........, drank gin, strangley enough! But what do you get when you mix girls from the chorus with alcohol? That's right....singing!
As we started singing, one lady came up to us and said "Are you from The Black Sheep?" It would seem that our fame and noteriety preceed us whenever we go! It turned out that she had been along to our concert at St Stephen's, recognised our style and clearly loved us!
But that was not all! What started off as a cheeky little sing on the stair well, turned into a full blown performance in front of about 300 people! The host of the Festival got to hear us and asked us if we would sing to the whole massed assembly. Before we knew it, we were up onstage with two microphones in front of us, doing our thing. They even paid us in gin tokens!
All in all it was a fabulous, fun event and not only did we drink a lot of different gins, but found out a lot of information as well. Did you know that gin is made out of potato vodka? Then they add the 'botanicals' like juniper berries and other aromatic herbs and spices. Fascinating stuff!
We were all a little jaded by the end of the evening, but it was brilliant fun and I thoroughly recommend it to ewe all next year!
|We had a luvverly time, the day we went to the Gin Festival.|
A small flock of six thirsty sheep met up on the train and went to Bath to take part in the Gin Festival being held in the Guild Hall. It was a very civilised affair and who knew there were so many gins? About 120 of them we were told were there ready and waiting to be tasted. So not wishing to disappont any of them, we set about the difficult task of choosing just four of them (£20 bought you a four-drink card). A few free samples to start with got us well in the mood and soon we were learning all sorts of facts about gin apart from what it tasted like. Did you know gin is made from potato vodka, for example? So many different things are added to it to enhance its flavour (anything from anise to sweet violets) and we quickly worked out which ones were our favourites.
Now, what do you get when you mix girls from the chorus and gin together? Well.....singing as it happens. Somebody (I wonder who that could be) produced a pitch pipe and off we went. We hadn't been singing for long when a lady came up to us and asked "Are you from The Black Sheep?". Our fame spreads far and wide it would seem. She'd been to the concert at St Stephen's and had recognised us.. She said we were just as great then as we were at the concert. She wasn't the only one to notice us as what started out as a cheeky little sing in the stairwell turned into a full blown performance to about 300 people.
The host for the event heard us singing and asked us if we could sing in the main hall, Before we knew it we were up on stage with two microphones in front of us, singing to the entire massed assembly. We went down a storm and we were given free gin tokens for our efforts. One girl who'd heard us sing was so impressed she came over and gave us her last gin token for us to share. Hence the caption - one gin, six straws!
It was a fabulous fun day, so many thanks to the 'gin singers': Kathy, Ann, Sue D, Nicky, Mary W and Noey (me!). Next year it's my intention to do it all again, this time with a full chorus. Get ready!
| One warm evening on July 9th 2016, over a dozen Black Sheep took to the streets of Bristol after a busy day to raise money walking five miles. It was for St. Peters Hospice who nurse people who are dying from terminal cancer in their caring and loving environment.|
It is a subject very close to our chorus' heart having lost our tenor friend Jill earlier this year. She was diagnosed less than a year before and sadly she passed away in the care of St. Peters Hospice. I was impressed by the devotion of the staff and helpers who nursed her to keep her comfortable and help look after the families emotional needs at such a difficult time. We did the walk last year when she feeling unwell and this year we tried to give something back and to ease the burdan of costs of this important charitable care.
On the day of the walk, it started with a few of us being asked to sing on BBC Radio Bristol. We had the crazy idea that this year we would dress as Sheep. So there we were at the BBC Bristol at 8am looking sheepish on the street. It didn't last long as one interview later and a song later live on the radio, our confidence had grown. Then we started busking in a cafe, on the street outside the charity shop and city museum.
Later in the day, it was time for the walk. Some of us arrived just in the nick of time to be dragged straight onto the stage to sing to the crowd of a few hundred women in a sea of pink, flashing bunny ears and carnival gear who were also taking part. Lazy Day was the song of choice and the ladies loved us.
The walk was long going, up and down steep hills, singing as we went and it is not quite so easy when you should be tucked up in bed. However as someone aptly said she wasn't dead yet and for that we should be very greatful You can donate at the link below.
|For more information, see:||https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/blacksheepharmony|