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Lockdown Samba Beats in Yorkshire

A Yorkshire-based Brazilian Samba band which provides a lifeline to members has created a special virtual performance as it looks to overcome the limitations of lockdown and put a smile on people’s faces.

Valley Beats, which has drumming groups in Holmfirth and Denby Dale and has received funding and support from our Northern Membership and Community Council (MCC), have produced a ‘lockdown samba’ from the comfort of their own homes.

Lockdown has been tough for the group, with many members classed as ‘high-risk’ and struggling due to the isolation of the last few months and being unable to meet up and socialise with fellow band members.

However, they have managed to keep in touch as much as possible following a steep learning curve on how to use Zoom with audio equipment and have replaced their physical meet-ups with weekly video ones.

Group leader Katie Mallard explained: “Lockdown has been really hard for some of our members. Some live alone and could no longer socialise and some felt their medical issues were worsening as they are no longer as physically or mentally active.

“Valley Beats rehearsals are a big part of keeping people active, so it has been very hard for everyone. With the Zoom classes we can chat, and they can play along at home to the instruments I play. Putting the video together took a lot of work and planning and it was a challenge working out how to involve all of our members.

“Our two 90-year-old ladies do not use smartphones or computers, so I visited them for a socially distanced chat and filmed them through their doors and windows, which looked interesting to passers-by! The whole project took about eight weeks from rehearsal to completion.

“The band worked so hard and many of them dislike seeing themselves on video, so it was a big step for them. I'm just so proud of everyone. We've had a wonderful response from families and the public.

“The cherry on the cake was being joined by pianist and composer Alex Wilson all the way from Zurich. His father plays surdo (a large bass drum) in Valley Beats and had no idea that Alex was joining us. Alex really brought the piece to life and we managed to keep it a secret from his father until the release day.”

For the members, such as Ann Taylor and Dot Freeman, the video provided a real boost in difficult times.

Ann said: "It's great to get together on Zoom during lockdown and working towards the video was a focus and an achievement for me. While my upturned plastic bin will never be as satisfying as bashing a drum and making a noise with the band, it will do until we can get together again."

Dot added: “It has been difficult when lockdown was announced and we all had to isolate and stay at home. I missed the fun and enjoyment of being together as a group playing our instruments and making music while having a laugh or two.

“The video was a great escape from the day to day challenges of lockdown and kept me focused on the good things in life and kept me out of some of the darker days that this pandemic has produced by being isolated. Being able to practice and perform virtually with friends has been a life saver.”

The group also recruited colleagues from their supporters at Central England Co-op for the video, with the team at the Lane Head Road Food Store in Shepley featured enjoying the samba beat.

Katie said: “I chatted with Store Manager Mark Freeman at the Lane Head Road store and he came up with some fabulous ideas for a socially-distanced video featuring his staff.

“It was so much fun working with them and also seeing the looks on customers' faces as the staff danced around to the music. It was a busy time for the store so I'm very grateful for their input.”

You can see the lockdown samba on YouTube

Valley Beats are on the lookout for new members to ensure the future of the vital group and are currently running an online beginners’ course. More details can be found at  https://www.rhythmstick.co.uk/valleybeats.html

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