Next week we are having a choir get-together which will act as an AGM. Usually we’d have this in the autumn term but, well, it was 2020.
This is my report looking back on our choir year of 2019-20, which runs from September to August. This means that we had just over half the year before the Covid lockdown, and I want to make sure that we don’t ignore the first half of the year because the second half was so unusual.
We started the year with our annual visit to Apple Day in the Walled Garden at Meersbrook Park – we sang Singing in the Rain in the rain. We sang Together in Electric Dreams particularly well and despite the weather it was a lovely community event.
At Christmas we revived A La Nanita and learnt I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. We sang a set in the beautiful setting of the Upper Chapel one Saturday morning, and then sang it again to three men and a dog (and a few choir family members) in Leopold Square, before venturing onto Fargate, which was heaving. We sang at the atmospheric St Paul’s carol service and in the streets of Meersbrook, squashed together, quaffing mulled wine, finishing with a party at Chris and Jan’s. We took it all for granted!
The new year started with enthusiasm – we had 47 people at the rehearsal on January 20th, which is a record. Quite unexpectedly, we were asked to do a performance at the beginning of March, at The Light cinema to celebrate the film Military Wives. This was a new venue for us, bringing our songs to a new audience, it was under cover and we got free tickets for the film – a success all round! I’m so glad we decided to do it, little realising it would be our last performance for over a year.
I’ve been re-reading my email updates to remember what life was like immediately before lockdown. We were excitedly planning for our weekend at Unstone Grange, our fourth residential there, and feeling disappointed that Street Choirs was not going ahead when we’d booked our accommodation 360 days in advance.
Then Covid-19 stopped being something that was happening on the other side of the world and we had to stop singing together. It was such a shock. I decided to set up Zoom rehearsals as soon as possible, and we started well, with over 20 people attending quite regularly. Over the months though, the numbers dwindled. People were zoomed-out after hours on screen for work, they got fed up with only hearing their own voice, or they found other things they enjoyed more.
We thought we would only be locked down for six weeks, or maybe twelve. I read articles by choir leaders who were saying “No singing together until we have a vaccine”, which seemed impossible and alarmist at that time.
As we reached the end of the school year it seemed we might be able to think about singing together in the autumn – sadly, it wasn’t to be, but I’m glad we did the risk assessment and the planning, because it will help us as we return later this year.
I started lockdown worried that I would have no work and no income at all, but I’ve been very busy throughout. I have tried my best to deliver entertaining musical sessions online, and to keep the blogs and emails positive and musical. I worry that I should have done more, that somehow I could have kept more people engaged for longer. But it’s impossible to replicate the choir experience – the feel of your voice in a space, mingling with other voices – and I am grateful that so many people do still feel like they are part of our choir.