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Who says the over 60's lack technical skills?

It was immediately obvious from the start of lockdown that the Cuckoo Choir would be unable to get together for its Friday singing practice, enjoy a catch up and a well-earned drink at the end of the session in The Talbot.

The Cuckoo Choir, while producing an increasingly complex and beautiful four part sound, has a strong foundation based on friendship and thoughtfulness, so the prospect of isolation, without the choir, for many members looked bleak.

How was this to be solved?

The solution to the problem came in the form of a Zoom video conference call, which at first received many a blank response, but slowly and surely the post-war mentality kicked in and keyboards were tapped, apps downloaded and passwords recorded in homes across the village.

Within a short space of time between 30 and 40 Cuckoos ‘Zoomed’ in together on Friday afternoons for virtual choir practice. Jane Haughton, the much loved leader of the choir, devised a plan along with Sarah Cheesmur and Lindy Elphick who provided the administrative and technical help that was needed. The Zoom hour would endeavour to replicate the normal Friday afternoon’s solid foundation of friendship, camaraderie and love of music, but also take advantage of 21st century technology.

The sessions began, as always, with a vocal warm up. Across Cuckfield deep breaths were taken and diaphragms were woken from sleep, then it was straight into glorious song. The choristers had to get used to only hearing themselves singing, rather than this being sheltered by the dulcet tones of basses, tenors, altos and sopranos. Those with back doors open on the hot Friday afternoons suddenly realised that the neighbours were getting concerned and wondered why the dogs were barking!

Making sure that all the doors and windows were tightly closed before the ‘start of play’ became essential. Special Fridays were recognised too. To celebrate VE Day, the choir wore appropriate headwear for the session with a programme that was both patriotic and nostalgic. ‘Rule Britannia’ sounded across the village and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ was sung with determination and a sense of relief.

Cuckoo Desert Island Discs became a popular second feature with Kirsty (not so Young) Cheesmur hosting this delightful long-standing radio programme.

As the weeks slid by what was revealed were the wide range of musical taste and the richness of memories hidden within the Cuckoos’ lives. Each guest took their Zoom companions back in time to Welsh rugby games, the back streets of Paris and remote countries whilst sharing recollections of those they love and miss.

Then into breakout rooms for welcome catch-ups with friends, which often presented technical issues.

“Am I muted? You need to unmute.” “Can you hear me? Can you see me now?”

Then the joy, especially for those who lived alone, to talk and listen to others; to find out how people were coping with lockdown and enjoy the comfort of knowing that one was not alone.

All too soon muted again and singing ‘solo’ in sitting rooms across the village and the hour had passed. Just time to join together, this time all unmuted, for their finale, to sing ‘ Shalom’ meaning peace in Hebrew. The result a cacophony, but for the Cuckoos an inner feeling of peace and the strength to help face another week of lockdown.


THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE 94 OF CUCKFIELD LIFE (reproduced with kind permission)




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