Members of Martlets’ Good Vibrations choir are making a colourful patchwork quilt to reflect life in lockdown over the past year. They are each decorating squares of fabric to show what has kept their spirits up during the pandemic, and what singing in the ‘video-call choir’ has meant to them.
Angela, the quilting queen
“I’ve been in the Good Vibrations choir since it started five years ago,” says Angela Avis. “I was volunteering for Martlets on the inpatient unit reception and as a complementary therapist. That’s how I heard about the choir. It’s the friendship and support as well as the singing that make it so special. The Zoom video calls have been important for a lot of choir members during COVID. But we’re all looking forward to being able to get together again once Government restrictions are lifted!”
Choir members are busy producing their individual squares and Angela will be sewing them all together to make the patchwork quilt. She hopes to have the project completed by the middle of April. Then the plan is to display it as a wall hanging in the Hospice.
“A while ago Aneesa, our choir leader, asked if we’d all take turns leading a short, fun, session before singing,” continues Angela. “I had sewn together a patchwork wall hanging previously and realised I still had the materials. I thought we could all express how we’ve got through lockdown.”
Squaring up to the challenge of COVID
The choir had a Zoom call recently to show each other the squares they had been working on.
“The choir members are very talented and some are doing more than one square,” says Angela. “One person is doing five! Someone has done puzzle pieces because jigsaw puzzles are what has helped her pass the time. Another wrote about what a joy it was to be part of the choir and how they valued the calls on Zoom. Others have made squares about supporting Martlets, and about the importance of nature, walking and family.”
Jeannie Ryan got involved with Good Vibrations several years ago, as a friend of hers was a member of the choir.
“I’ve always loved singing,” she says. “I’m 88 now, but I remember being asked to sing down in the bomb shelters during the war. When I was a child, we lived in London during the Blitz. We used to sing ‘God save the king’ and ‘We’ll meet again’, and it kept everyone’s spirits up. There was all sorts going on down there – children crying, or someone going to the loo in a bucket. They’d ask me to sing to distract from the noise!
I love all sorts of songs from classical music to honky-tonk and the lovely psalms we sing in church. I’ve got a good strong high soprano voice even if I can’t walk too far anymore. I’d recommend joining the choir to anyone. We are taught the right way to breathe and how to stand to sing. Aneesa always arranges the songs in new ways which I enjoy as it makes them more interesting.
There’s such a good mix of people with different voices and different opinions and I like that. It feels as if each person has found the choir for their own special reason. They might have lost someone close to them, or be facing something difficult in life, or just want to support Martlets.
For me, the choir feels like a comfortable place to be. We all help each other out and it’s a lovely place to belong. Other choir members have helped with my shopping and with taking me to church. I don’t have internet, but they’ll call me in on the phone during the Zoom session. It means I can hear what’s going on, sing along down the phone, and stay connected.
‘I’m having a dabble with poetry and I might write a poem for my quilt square.’
Lovely Angela is coming round tomorrow to help with my quilt squares, as I haven’t decided what to do yet. I’m not much good at arty things, I’m better at singing and I used to be good at dancing and ice skating too. But I’ve got a good brain still and you’ve got to make the most of life.
I’ve just started writing poetry, quite by accident actually. The little girl over the road posted a poem through my door that she’d written for me. She wrote about how she missed my lovely smiling face and things like that. So, I decided I’d write one back to her. It was about how I’ve got a wonderful friend over the road who’s a pleasure to see. I sent it to her parents first and they said I ought to write more poems so I’m having a dabble.
I might even put a short poem on my square for the quilt. Perhaps I’ll put something about hope.
‘We’ve all come together through the pandemic, so I like to think there will be peace and hope for the future.’
Wouldn’t it be lovely if people stopped going to war after all this COVID business. I remember people dying in the war and countries fighting each other, but now we’re all up against an invisible virus. Let’s hope it somehow brings people together, because we’re all facing the same foe wherever we are in the world.
I used to work as a nurse in a hospital and for the Red Cross. I wish I could be in the hospital working now during COVID to do my bit. But at least I’ll be able to sit in a shop doorway somewhere soon with a charity collection box. ‘Can’t’ isn’t a word in my vocabulary, so it’s frustrating that I can’t walk further these days. I’m extremely happy though despite the issues with my legs and feet and the osteoporosis. I feel lucky to get old when some people die sooner. Being a part of the choir and singing reminds me that I’ve got a lot of life left in me!”
We’ll post a photo of the finished quilt and Jeannie’s squares once the project is completed in April.