Sussex Harmony in the face of Covid restrictions

2020 began as of yore
Singing anthems, hymns, psalms – as before
But not very long
After Ripe evensong
We were locked down and kept in by law.

Gigs cancelled have been this year’s tale
Spilt milk - over which we’ll not wail.
2020’s the year
We missed our free beer
Though I’m sure Miles will brew more Old Ale!

This pandemic will not last for ever
There’s vaccine – a tremendous endeavour.
Although we’re apart
We’re united in heart
Our Zooming has kept us together.

Rachel Jordan, our director of Music, summed up in verse how Sussex Harmony managed to keep together in the face of lockdown and the restrictions of 2020.  Little did we think in March after our 10th quire practice of the year and a well- attended BCP evensong in the 13th century church at Ripe, near Lewes, that we would not sing together for the rest of 2020 let alone well into 2021. 

Embracing technology has meant that members ranging in age from 25 to 92 were able to “meet” to sing, play, socialise, laugh, support one another and stay together as a community on 36 occasions in 2020 and we keep going……. A highlight has been  “Quaran-tunes”. Without any sophisticated audio equipment, Andrew Gow – a tenor - managed to produce and record three numbers - a carol, an anthem and a glee.  Individually, we recorded our voices or instrumental accompaniment for Andy to cut and paste together in his tiny flat in Brighton when he could find the time away from his PhD studies in quantum physics. You can find some of  our musical offerings on the website –

There had been plenty of events planned for 2020 – 11 definite and 3 possibles. One lamented victim was the cancellation of the annual Harveys brewery Harvest festival service in Lewes where we have provided the quire for several years.  The church is always decorated with sweet smelling hop bines; huge bags of malt are propped up against the Norman pillars and the church is filled to capacity. Our music is accompanied by the tinkling of Morris men’s bells as they file into the church and after the service we all adjourn to the brewery yard for free samples of the year’s first brew of Old Ale plus entertainment.  Miles Jenner - Harveys’ Head Brewer – kept the establishment ticking along at six percentage of its normal capacity in order to keep the crucial yeast alive and well. With easements in the hospitality industry this has now been increased quite considerably.

Hopefully, we will be able to continue with this Harvest tradition in October and sing the Farmer’s Toast again.  This is a rip-roaring glee collected from Catsfield, Sussex by Canon MacDermott in the early part of the 20th century.  Since Sussex Harmony is blessed with budding Poet Laureates who have a penchant for altering words to fit the occasion, our “Quaran- tune version of the glee ends:

Though we may be apart
We can still create art.
pandemic will stop us from singing,
And when we are free-er,
We'll sing right through the year,
And we'll smile at the joy we are bringing.

     Paula Nicholson
Rachel Jordan