2020 - what a year!

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Well, what can we say about 2020?

We started the year with huge plans and much excitement for celebrating our 15-year anniversary with a big concert and party, as well as hosting our inaugural Brighton International Festival of Choirs, but, sadly, all too soon it became apparent that this was not to be, and like every choir and every organisation in the world, we saw our plans crumble, as events were postponed or cancelled.

The year has certainly been disastrous for many, especially on a personal level, but while we have heard of many, many heart-breaking stories, there has been an equal number of heart-warming stories, as communities have come together to find new ways of doing things, to support each other and to champion their heroes. And so, rather than focus on what hasn’t happened, let’s instead focus on and be grateful for what HAS happened this year!

In early February, before we were affected by the pandemic, Surrey Rainbow Choir was invited to join BBC Radio Surrey’s Nicky Patrick, where they performed live on air. Given that this was only their second public performance, they rose to the challenge and performed with confidence, making such a good impression that they were invited back during Pride month in June (this time by phone-in) to talk about all things Pride, their own life experiences and about their favourite songs. Well done Rainbows!

Our three choirs have continued to rehearse online using Zoom technology, and we thank our musical directors who have enthusiastically encouraged, coaxed and inspired members to join them each week. On the whole our members have embraced the new way of rehearsing, and around half of our members are regularly ‘zooming’ each week which is really quite an achievement.

We organised a “care team” of willing volunteers, who continue to make regular telephone contact with several of our members who appreciate hearing a friendly voice on the end of the phone - a huge thank you to our care team for their dedication.  

We’ve had a change of Musical Director for Elmbridge Choir! Having decided after 15 years to step down from leading Elmbridge Choir to concentrate on growing and furthering Surrey Music, Cliff passed the baton to new MD Hugh Beckwith who took over in November and has already made a great impression on choir members. Welcome Hugh! 

We celebrated Cliff’s 15 years as MD of Elmbridge Choir by presenting him with a specially bound ‘scrapbook’, containing photos, memories and personal messages from around 100 choir members. Cliff was as emotional as he was surprised to receive such a touching gift when it was presented to him during a Zoom rehearsal. It wasn’t quite the public send-off Cliff deserved as he stepped down from his MD duties, but he greatly appreciated the personal, heartfelt and rather more intimate gesture. Thank you, Cliff, for 15 years’ devoted service in providing the best experiences, fun and friendship for your Elmbridge Choir family, and we look forward to seeing what you have planned next for Surrey Music – exciting times ahead, we’re sure!

We’ve held our first ever live-streamed concert!  It certainly wasn’t our typical Christmas concert, but it was just as jolly and colourful and representative of our three choirs. “Step into Christmas” was live-streamed on YouTube and has so far received 1.4k views! Thanks to our members and our Musical Directors for rising to new challenges, but particular thanks must go to Cliff and Brendon who masterminded the technology and production to create a brilliant and entertaining show.

As usual we have been proud to support a couple of community projects. “We Are Here” is a song written by two carers celebrating the work of carers during the first lockdown, and we were delighted to assist with the project, arranging for the recording of the charity single and the accompanying video. We were also pleased to support “The Giving Sleigh”, an initiative led by Surrey Rainbow Choir member, Garritt Brown, and his colleagues from the Princess Alice Hospice. The project collected more than 1000 toys and gifts for struggling families, and we would like to thank all those of our members who contributed.

Sadly, in September, we said goodbye to our dear friend Robin Rotherham, who succumbed to the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Robin, a charming gent with a ready smile and twinkle in his eye, sang tenor in Elmbridge Choir for many years, and he will be sorely missed by us all. As a close community we mourn the loss of any of our members and will remember him fondly.

Happily, as an organisation we have made it to the end of this year relatively unscathed and our membership remains strong. As always, we are positive about the future and have concert plans (virtual and/or physical!) in place for 2021. With the advent of Covid vaccines we see light at the end of the tunnel, and, guided by the official advice, and if our members and MDs feel confident, we will be back singing together just as soon as we can. How we long for that day!

And while we wait for that good news, we will continue to support each other, to rehearse virtually and learn new songs together in readiness for our first concert of 2021.

We wish all our members and their families, our friends and supporters a healthy, happy and brighter new year!.


Pam Higgins
Hi Debbie,
You are so right:a lot hashappened this year. We have totally missed singing together and socialising both during and after rehearsals. We have missed giving Cliff the surrey music appreciation for 15 incredible years and welcoming the wonderful Hugh in person! But.... we have kept the small groups alive with socially distanced cuppas and walks where we have got to know each other a little better and that has been lovely. We are also mad whatsappers and sharers of good, bad, funny and ugly stuff!!?
Wishing everone a brave new year- remember not to count the days, but make every day count!
Pam H??

Maryella Edward
Good article Debbie! In these dark days, thank you for reminding us of the good and positive things about 2020. We all need that!
June Byrne
Well done and thank you for keeping us all in touch. Newsletter was brilliant and full of positivity. Many thanks to Editor. MD's & Committee. I was very sad to hear about Robin. Always such the perfect gentleman. Just leaves me to wish all our choirs MD's and Committees a Brighter, Happier, Kinder, Healthier New Year 2021. Can't wait to get singing again. Whilst in lockdown have revisited photographs and videos of concerts both here at in other countries. What an amazing journey we have been on.
June xdY

Jackie Mitchell
Wow what a fabulous uplifting article - thank you Debbie. What amazing achievements all three choirs have managed to achieve during 2020. Bravo bravo and here's to a better New Year!
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