These were not words I was expecting to be saying whilst staring at my laptop screen in 2020, along such other classic lines “I’m putting you all on mute”, “Hang on, we’ve lost Steve”, and “Sheila’s got a dodgy connection”. All of these immortal words are now ingrained in our collective consciousness having experienced the ups and downs of the (cue dramatic drumroll) ONLINE CHOIR REHEARSAL. Whilst this phrase inspired (and I’ll be honest) moderate amounts of terror back in April, it quickly became a staple in our diet of the online creativity that was to quickly develop in the First Dance community and across the world wide web. One wonders how we would have coped with such enforced separation prior to widely available video conferencing software!
I’m proud of what my wonderful group of singers at First Dance achieved through lockdown, and I think we all learnt a little more about each other, and certainly about our taste in décor, through our weekly sessions on Zoom. As a choral conductor who has been trained to react to singers’ musical reactions during a rehearsal, suddenly not being able to hear a choir in rehearsal is a little like choreographing a dancer in the dark. Therefore, leading a rehearsal of a ‘muted choir’ is not an easy task, but it’s not without its rewards. The fact that the singers can see each other, despite not hearing each other, still provides a sense of cohesion and unity that is one of the most joyous things about belonging to a choir. The knowledge that I’m able to provide a musical track and offer guidance in its interpretation gives me pleasure, as does the opportunity to discuss the music and the reasons we enjoy singing it – something that we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do in a rehearsal.
Looking to the future, sadly, singing has been rated as one of the highest risk activities in the Covid era – particularly singing indoors. Media reports of a return to normality for choirs are extremely misleading, as any return to singing in person depends on the alignment of separate risk assessments for singing and the venue in which it takes place. Factors that were once of secondary or no importance, such as ventilation, social distancing, the volume at which people sing, right up to the handling of musical copies, now have major implications on our health. No longer can I say “spit out those consonants!” For this reason, the First Dance Singers will be remaining on Zoom for the moment, until such time that the risk decreases and the two risk assessments move into greater alignment in a way for people to feel safe enough to return in person.
But then, the joy! We’ll be hurtling towards the wonderful celebration of expression and creativity that is the First Dance Show in 2021. The excitement of being on stage and the sights and smells of the theatre all around us will be a treat worth waiting for.
And it really will be well worth the wait. The singers carry on singing via zoom and you can see the timetable here. The choir that sings together, make great music! Please get in touch with any questions you may have.