What a year 2020 has been.
When we celebrated International Womens Day with Erdington Labour Women’s Forum on March 7th, we could never have imagined the circumstances we would find ourselves in just two weeks later. A global pandemic, social distancing, mask wearing and sanitising everything in sight, became our new normal. Plans to celebrate 80 years of Birmingham Clarion Singers were folded up and put in the cupboard, and the vibrant, noisy celebrations of the Cradley Heath Women Chainmakers were relocated online.
Wednesday rehearsals were temporarily displaced by Zoom quiz nights, as the realisation that singing was one of the most dangerous activities on the planet became apparent (but we always knew that. In times of unrest and protest, song has invariably been used by the people, for the people).
We said some sad goodbyes in 2020. Graham Stevenson, long time supporter of Clarion (and father of member Joanne) was taken far too soon on May 1st. Theresa Stewart, close friend of Katharine Thomson and other memorable Clarion members, died in November, at the age of 90. And we have recently had the sad news that former member and local folk singer/songwriter Ivor Pearce had died following a long illness.
As the year moved on, and the country shifted from lockdown to incomprehensible tiers, and back to lockdown, the absence of collective singing was affecting us all. And so, it was with great joy, and some trepidation, we agreed to learn new arrangements for two carol singing events. Each section met once via Zoom, to agree on the dynamics and practice our own parts.
Saturday December 12th, audiences at two outdoor locations were treated to a socially distanced world first! A jigsaw of alto, soprano, tenor and bass parts came together, despite not having rehearsed together prior to the performances.
The appreciative and well-behaved crowds outside the All Saints Centre and Cartlands Tea Rooms in Kings Heath were entertained with two regional wassails from Yorkshire and the Gower, along with some old favourites – Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and Ding Dong Merrily on High. We courageously included a version of Sans Day Carol, despite never having performed it together before.
Relying on word of mouth and passing interest, we were astonished at the number of people who took the time to stop and listen. Yet again, Birmingham Clarion Singers rose to the challenge, as they have done for 80 years. In 2021 we intend to raise our voices in unison once again, for the displaced, the voiceless and the powerless.
In Solidarity, and with enormous gratitude.
Birmingham Clarion Singers (a.k.a the Clazzas).