Woodend Warblers back      to full rehearsals

November 23rd, 2020Woodend Warblers back to full rehearsals

BACK in April 2018 Andrew Price saw a post on the Woodend Community Ponderings Facebook page that piqued his interest. Someone had written: ‘Would like to organise a small singing group – any ponderers who would be interested in coordinating?’

Andrew had a lot of experience with choral singing and had been a member of the Men in Suits choir for many years where he also served as assistant musical director. So he decided to get in touch with Tricia Hartshorn, the person who put up the post.
It turned out Tricia and her friends had been out for a fairly big night and they all talked about how they would like to have a get-together and start having a sing. So she posted it up to Facebook when she got home but totally forgot about it.
She woke up the next morning to a raft of comments from people keen to join in.


“I put my hand up to coordinate,” says Andrew, “and talked with Tricia about what I thought we could do. She said: ‘I thought we could get together for a bit of a group sing-along, nothing too serious and we definitely wouldn’t want to perform.’ I said: ‘Don’t make any firm decisions on any of that and we will see how we go’.”
Today the group is known as The Woodend Warblers. They are a community choir with no audition required and everybody welcome. Their first rehearsal attracted about 20 people and by the beginning of this year they were getting up to 40 people coming along. At this time last year they were at their busiest preparing for a number of Christmas engagements around the town including about four or five different carol services and singing in the streets during Thursday late night shopping.
“Obviously COVID had a massive impact on that. After singing in person became impossible mid-March we continued meeting via Zoom for four or five months,” Andrew said.

“Numbers did dwindle since it was a very different experience on Zoom. You don’t get to hear each other and in spite of our best efforts a few months ago we decided to put a pause on the Zoom singing until we were able to get back together face-to-face.”
In the past four weeks, with the loosening of restrictions, they have been meeting up again in small groups outdoors. Right now that is set at 10 singers plus a leader. But as of November 23 group gatherings limits will increase to 50.
For the Warblers, this will mean the entire choir can come together again and they will be returning to a full rehearsal on November 25 – all socially distanced with hand sanitiser and other precautions. One of the members of the choir has even made special masks that have more room in them so that everyone can move their mouths and breathe easier while singing.
“We are planning to meet that Wednesday evening at the old Black Forest timber mill on Black Forest Drive because they have a large open covered area. The owners are keen to support community activities and we are massively grateful to them for making the space available to us.”
The Woodend Warblers began as an informal group singalong. Today they can again come together in four-part harmony, perform whenever they can and have a great time doing it.
“I’m overjoyed with the way the choir has progressed,” says Andrew, “and what it does, the purpose it serves for a lot of the members of the group is as an important social hub and creative outlet as well.”

Above, from left, Andrew Price, Arthur Hayes, Kelly Clune, Henry Roberts, Alex Murfett, Mike Moore, Andy Scicluna, Katie Street (front row), Rebecca Franke (middle row), Grant Thomas (behind Rebecca), Sandra Turnbull, Ray Tadd, Cleo Moore (front row), Kerry Backhouse (middle row), Brenda Secker, Marina Herriman, Liz Higgs, Janice Koop, Keran Barrett and Tricia Hartshorn (aka Dame Violet Crumble)

Words: Tony Sawrey | Image: Supplied

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