It is with great sadness that we pay tribute to one of our founder members, Fiona Steggles Elliott who died on 13th April 2022, a few days before her 53rd birthday. We were all shocked and upset to hear the news that Fiona had been taken far too soon. We extend our deepest condolences to Fiona’s husband Mark, their boys Jack and Joe and to their extended family.
Fiona Joined our Community Choir in its ‘infancy’, when we were The Eccles Singers, a weekly night-class based in Eccles College. Upon its merger with Salford City College, Eccles College wanted to disband the choir, but we wanted to keep singing! So, in 2009 we set up independently as Eccles Community Choir. We needed a venue, a committee, a members’ constitution and funding. Fiona was our first Chairman and she was instrumental in helping to get all these things in place so that our Musical Director Angela Rowley could start to grow and develop our Choir. Fiona did a fantastic job as Chair, making the testing challenge of getting the Choir established look easy to the rest of us. Our ethos has always been to sing together in harmony for friendship and pleasure and to do everything possible to make membership and listening to our music accessible to all. So you can see why Fiona was perfect for the job!
Fiona had natural leadership and communication skills. She was inherently friendly, supportive and patient. And of course, she loved to sing. Eccles Community Choir grew and we have shared some fabulous singing experiences together. When the Choir went to sing with the BBC Philharmonic, Fiona kindly showed us round the Oxford road studios. Choir Members were informed of Fiona’s death via our WhatsApp group and there were many responses. A number of people, especially Margaret and Trish, fondly remembered that tour as a highlight when they think of Fiona.
So many comments poured out within a matter of minutes to say what a wonderful, kind, welcoming and friendly lady she was. Here are a few of the comments: Lesley said ‘Fiona was a wonderful woman with a great alto voice’. Anne said Fiona was an amazing lady; recalling how great it was to sit next to her at the Albert Hall; giving Anne the advantage of having the best Alto leading as we sang. Mary said, ‘When I joined, Fiona was a great presence and a key part of the Choir, as well as a great lead for us altos. A great loss for her family and friends’. Jackie said, ‘Fiona was so full of life and we loved having her beautiful alto voice in our Choir. Such a great loss for her family and friends. Judith recalled cutting the boys’ hair and said Fiona will be sadly missed by family and friends. Everybody expressed sorrow and shock at the news. Maureen said that Fiona was lovely and welcoming and Sheila said, ‘Fiona was a lovely member of the Choir, with a lovely voice’.
Fiona left our Choir when her family moved to Cumbria, but we kept in touch through social media. All of those who knew her followed her blogs with personal interest and were in awe at Fiona’s determined progress despite significant health challenges. Of course we were amazed at her brave appearances on Northwest Tonight. We had only been thinking of Fiona as we approached the beginning of April, when Angela was able to tell us how well Fiona was doing since her kidney transplant. On hearing the news of Fiona’s death, Angela said, ‘Fiona was a stalwart founder member of the Choir. Her beautiful, mellow alto voice was a support to all. Fiona was a wonderful person who lit up any space she entered with her infectious smile. We are all blessed to have shared time with her”.
Of course, we all remember what a great sense of humour Fiona had. For a while, we had very few men in the Choir and some of the altos, including Fiona, would occasionally add support by singing the men’s part instead of their own. Fiona is blamed for coining the phrase describing this novel choral role – the tenor-ladies!
The overall response from Eccles Community Choir has been shock and great sadness, and we all would like to say Rest in Peace Fiona.
There is one song, written in 1931, words by Gus Kahn, Music by Andre Fabian & and Wilbur Schwandt that will always remind us of Fiona. She sang it so beautifully as a solo – ‘Dream a little Dream of Me’. So we can think of Fiona and still hear her singing: