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Out & About: Pocket Song Singers to gather for first time

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2021 9:55:05 PM
Modified: 6/30/2021 9:55:12 PM

LEBANON — There’s excitement building among the Pocket Song Singers.

Members of the group, which has been meeting over Zoom since last April, will gather in person to sing together for the first time from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday under the pavilion at CCBA in Lebanon. Everyone is welcome — regardless of whether they participated in the virtual programs. People must register by Friday at uvmusic.org/event/pocket-songs-in-a-
pavilion. The cost is $10 and COVID-19 vaccines are required to attend. Registration is limited to 100 people.

“I expect we’ll all just blubber, just cry because it’s been so long,” said Sue Buckholz, a member of the group. “If you like getting together and singing ... there’s no substitute.”

In the year that the program ran online, it drew 321 different singers, said director Patricia Norton. Some people attended only once while others came back each week. Sessions were held Sunday afternoons and Tuesday mornings.

“It really carried me through the pandemic, getting ready for every week,” Norton said. “They were songs that were easy to learn and remember. ... There was a wide variety of songs, a wide variety of feelings. Some were really upbeat, some were calming, some were grieving, ways of giving voice to grief.”

Saturday’s event will feature eight songs: Four that the group has sung before and four new ones. It will be Norton’s first time singing with a group beyond her immediate family of four since March 2020. Since the pandemic began, she has been teaching virtually. On Zoom, Pocket Song Singers are muted and sing along with Norton alone. They do not hear other members of the group.

Kim Meredith joined Pocket Singers in March 2020 while she was staying with her mother in South Carolina. Due to the pandemic, Meredith’s two-week visit turned into two months, and each week the duo joined Norton over Zoom.

“The two of us did it together on Sunday afternoon and it was absolutely wonderful,” said Meredith, of Thetford. Her mother was 95 at the start, turned 96 in September and died in December. “The chance to sing together like that was really awesome.”

Prior to the pandemic, Meredith sang with the Lyme-based Full Circle Singers. During the pandemic, she participated in three of Norton’s virtual choirs. While she was grateful to be able to continue to sing, Zoom didn’t have the same vibe as in-person choirs.

“There’s so much to miss,” Meredith said. “The warmth and camaraderie ... did develop in the Zoom programs, but not to the same degree. I just miss hearing other voices and how my voice sounds with other voices.”

Buckholz, of West Hartford, feels similarly.

“Sometimes it was too hard, not to be together,” she said. “I think we’ve all had our ups and down in the last year and a half.”

Buckholz credits Norton with helping to keep her going: If she missed a couple weeks, Norton contacted her to check in. The Pocket Songs were easy to learn and helped get her out of her head, a mental break from the stress of the pandemic.

“It’s just simple stuff, but it’s beautiful,” Buckholz said. “They’re like meditations, a lot of her songs. You sing something over eight or 10 times and you just get lost in the image.”

The group drew people from all over the Twin States, the United States — and even throughout the world. Anne Walshe joined the group from her home in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. In an email, Walshe wrote that she “felt quite isolated and disconnected from people during the early stages of the pandemic” and was looking for something to do to lift her spirits. Norton had been a guest on a Zoom program hosted by song leader Maria Wood in Clare and learned about Pocket Songs. Walshe began attending the Sunday program. The time zone rfor her home in Ennis is eight hours ahead.

“Pocket Songs gave me a reason to smile and laugh during our lockdown period (which went on much longer here in Ireland than in the US) and I also learned some wonderful songs that I could hum and sing to myself during the week,” Walshe wrote. “I got to know some great people and every evening when I signed off I was in a much better place than when I began.”

After the gathering in person, Pocket Songs will go back to being online. The Upper Valley Music Center is still figuring out how best to proceed with in-person choirs for the fall, or if they can do so safely.

Throughout the course of the program, participants sang more than 120 songs, Norton said. People of all ages participated. Norton heard from participants about how they carried the songs with them throughout the week, pulling them out in the middle of the night when “they would wake up feeling anxious and frightened and they would sort of settle themselves back down with one of these songs,” she said. The simple lyrics and melodies gave them comfort.

On Saturday, the Pocket Song Singers will be able to find comfort in being together in person for the first time.

“I am really excited,” Norton said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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