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Community choir leader in Assington launches weekly online singing sessions to keep members engaged during coronavirus lockdown




With community activities across Suffolk indefinitely on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, a choir group has found a unique method of keeping members engaged during the ongoing public lockdown.

The HappySounds Community Choir, run by Assington-based singing teacher Nettie Osman, has set up weekly online singing sessions, with new members being urged to join in.

Using the web conferencing platform Zoom, the online choir enables dozens of members to communicate with each other from home through their computers.

Nettie Osman, who runs HappySounds Community Choir in Assington, has set up a weekly online choir for her members, through the video conferencing platform Zoom, to keep the group going during the coronavirus lockdown..Pic - Richard Marsham. (32961092)
Nettie Osman, who runs HappySounds Community Choir in Assington, has set up a weekly online choir for her members, through the video conferencing platform Zoom, to keep the group going during the coronavirus lockdown..Pic - Richard Marsham. (32961092)

The choir has been forced to cease its regular gatherings at Assington Village Hall and the Stevenson Centre in Great Cornard, the latter of which also works with people with breathing difficulties, for the foreseeable future.

Nettie, a resident of Rose Green, explained that members had been heartbroken as, for many of them, the choir was one of their main opportunities to socialise, so she decided to find another way to keep the group going.

With the online choir having held two sessions so far for almost 30 members, she told the Free Press that, while there had initially been challenges with overcoming the technological barrier, the end result has proved a great success.

“Some of our members are quite elderly and would be quite isolated without the group, so it’s a social thing as much as anything,” she said.

“When this crisis started, it all stopped. Everyone still wanted to take part, because everyone wanted to have that social contact.

“I’m very much a face-to-face person, so sitting behind a computer screen has been a major learning curve. It has been fantastic getting up to speed and updating our technological skills.

“The feedback I’ve had is they are all absolutely loving it. For those members who are in self-isolation because of their breathing difficulties, this is a line to the outside world.

“It’s a lifeline. We have become a family and we all miss each other, so I think it makes a massive difference.

“Times are really wobbly out there. People are struggling emotionally and this is an outlet for them to vent some emotion and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Nettie, who has also seen her care home entertainment business dry up because of the coronavirus outbreak, is also using the Zoom platform to provide entertainment free-of-charge to care facilities throughout Suffolk every fortnight.

She said there is scope for many care homes in the county to benefit, stating that many facilities are struggling at the moment, with some residents isolating in their rooms as a precaution against the virus.

Anybody interested in taking part in the HappySounds Community Choir’s online singing group is asked to get in touch through the contact page at www.happysounds.co.uk.

The online choir takes place every Thursday, starting at 7pm, with the next session happening tonight. A voluntary donation is requested from all participants to support the group.

Nettie added that the group is still hopeful to being able to stage its annual charity concert, scheduled for September, in aid of the Suffolk and Essex Small Animal Welfare (Sesaw) charity in Leavenheath.