There’s light at the end of the tunnel!

light-end-tunnel

Hurrah! We have started a phased return to singing together! It has taken a huge amount of work for this to happen but we now have a small number of volunteer singers meeting at a temporary COVID-secure venue with Angela our Musical Director and John our accompanist so that at our Zoom rehearsals we can sing along with other voices to help us learn our parts. We have seen that other choirs, including big ones like the Halle Choir have also been taking similar steps towards singing together.

stockton heath

It’s so lovely to sing together again! There is much more work involved than for pre-COVID activities.  We need the venue for an increased length of time to allow for careful set-up/down with additional equipment and technology.  But it’s been worth all the effort because we have been able to take a really big step towards singing together safely.

We are keeping abreast of all the relevant regulations and guidelines to make sure that we are doing everything correctly and safely, including detailed risk assessments for our activities. We have new documents for Choir members to use – these are also available to view/download from this website by clicking on the title of the document.

It’s actually more time consuming and more expensive to run Choir this way than when we all met in a School hall before the pandemic, but Choir is not just about singing together. Our Community Choir is a source of support for all its members and in these difficult times, extra efforts have been made to support well-being and mental health of the members. We have a WhatsApp group, social media groups, emails and phone calls keeping us all together. We had no break from weekly Zoom meetings in the Spring term and only three weeks break in the Summer. Throughout Spring and Summer we had extra Zoom sessions on Friday evenings for a quick catch-up and a short sing-song. Remote Choir activity is so much better than no Choir at all; especially as many of our members are spending the pandemic in isolation; several are also separated from loved ones in care homes whom they are not permitted to visit. Life is certainly very hard for many of us at the moment and Choir makes a huge, positive difference. So far, we have not had to increase the cost of subscriptions, and we hoping to obtain a grant to help us with the extra expenses. We have started with plans for continuing with this phased return, but of course these will very much depend on the progress of the pandemic and the effects of changes to regulations. It does feel like it’s ‘one step forwards, two steps back’  much of the time, but it’s wonderful to report that we are moving in the right direction! None of this would have been possible without the massive amounts of work put in by John and Angela, and our volunteers and Committee. We are so lucky to have this commitment and dedication, and extremely grateful too!

 

We are still going strong!

The first of September 2020 is the start of our new Choir Year.  We have been surviving the pandemic through weekly Zoom rehearsals and new online resources, plus daily WhatsApp, a Zoom chat & sing-song on Fridays and group emails. Unfortunately, a small number of Choir members are not virtually connected and they cannot join Zoom meetings yet- emails and telephone calls have been keeping them in the loop and we really hope we find a way to increase their engagement as lockdown measures are eased. But the vast majority of us have been enjoying virtual rehearsals every week. Our continued subscriptions are fantastic value for money, as Angela and John have been working incredibly hard to provide everything we need to sustain the Choir and keep us connected– we have even learnt 4 new pieces!  

Busy preparations are underway so that we can be ready at the earliest possible opportunity to physically meet again.  The first major step we are anticipating in the establishment of our ‘new normal’ will be ‘real’ Choir practice with Covid-19 measures in place for those who feel able to attend, linked by Zoom to those joining the rehearsals from home. Therefore we are getting everything in place to enable this to happen as soon as local regulations permit us to do so.

Realistically, it’s going to be a while before we can provide a public concert again. The Choir needs to see an ‘end-product’ for all our musical efforts, so the main objective this term is to produce a compilation video performance. This will be quite an undertaking, but we are lucky to have John with all the technological know-how and we will help each other to make the individual recordings.

Overall, we have done very well to keep going and to overcome so very many obstacles – thanks to massive efforts from Angela and John and to the strong friendship within the Choir.  The latest research findings about the Covid-19 safety of singing are extremely encouraging; it shows that that singing does not produce very substantially more respiratory particles than when speaking at a similar volume (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2020/august/perfomsing-study.html) , so we are optimistic that ‘real’ rehearsals will be possible very soon.

At the start of every term, we invite new members to join us. Although everything is being done differently, we are still able to sing together for pleasure and friendship and you are welcome to join us. Why not try a Zoom rehearsal and see what you think?   If you decide to join us, subscriptions are paid by online bank transfer (£35 per term, three terms per year, or £105 for the year) and you will find this excellent value for money.  Just email our Musical Director, Angela if you would like to be invited to join a Zoom rehearsal: angelarowley@ntlworld.com . We look forward to meeting you!

Maintaining Harmony

Before the coronavirus pandemic, we met every Tuesday evening for Choir practice; sopranos, altos and men closely side by side in rows, with Angela and John at the front leading us through two hours of wonderful songs. We now realise, more than ever, how marvellous it was to be able to gather together on Tuesday nights to sing; how beneficial such close human contact in this context can be. We miss each other and can’t wait until we can have normal Choir practice again.

When you are that close together in an indoor space, you can feel the harmonies resonate through you as you sing. You should be listening to everyone else as you sing to try to ensure your voices blend and produce a congruent, coherent and synchronized sound(with clear consonants! ). So many different voices, different tonal qualities and timbres are combined to produce a unique musical ‘voice’; the voice of a Choir. In other words, harmony.

Harmony connects us and creates bonds which remain even when we are not singing together. During Lockdown, Angela has been a driving force in helping us to maintain our harmonious bond. In addition to emails and telephone calls, we have been having two–hour Zoom rehearsals on Tuesday evenings and a Zoom sing-along song on Friday evenings. John has also been working incredibly hard with arrangements, recorded accompaniments and YouTube music practice parts for each section of the Choir. This keeps us busy between sessions. John plays for us on the Zoom sessions too.

We can’t actually hear each other sing – because of signal delays from each participant, the output cannot be synchronised. So we each sing along whilst muted on Zoom, with only the accompaniment and Angela to guide us. It can be quite chaotic, but it’s really good fun and we have made progress, learning some new pieces. It’s still a very precious time together. None of us can hear the Choir’s voice, we miss it and each other so much. But… we can still feel the harmony!