We did it! We had a live session, 30 of us singing together in the Walled Garden of Meersbrook Park.
The weather smiled on us: it was a warm evening, but not bright enough to have the sun in our eyes. There was no wind, so I didn’t have to worry about music blowing off my stand. The birds were busy in the trees and the garden itself was looking lush and lovely.
It was fun gathering all my things together, preparing for a real-life session. I My new toolkit worked well. From a PE equipment store, I ordered 50 mini-cones, which stack onto a central handle and are very light to carry. My husband helped me carry everything up to the garden, and we put out the markers 2m apart to show everyone where to stand (or sit if they had brought a stool/chair/mobility scooter). These were colour-coded for the different parts, and the altos even had a two-tone system to indicate whether they should go high or low for the two-part song.
We had a gatekeeper marking people off on the register as they arrived and we locked the gates to stop any random people wandering in. A few of us chose to wear masks. My “director’s mask” with a window in it didn’t really help people to see my mouth as it got misted up and felt a bit damp. One choir member said I looked a bit like Hannibal Lecter, too, which wasn’t the trustworthy, approachable look I was going for.
I used a microphone so that people could hear me better – this wasn’t perfect as I found it hard to hold the mic in the right place while conducting. I’ve got a couple of different options to try for next time – amplification is invaluable as the choir now extends for about 14 metres widthways and 8m in depth! We kept our warm-up exercises tall and narrow so that we didn’t touch, and we avoided the spitty vocalisations.
We closed our eyes, listened and hummed, breathing together, then opened our eyes to smile and greet the people around us. And then we sang. How lovely to hear voices again, blending in unison and meeting in harmony.
I was glad that the new venue meant I had to ask people to help with some tasks. Sometimes being in charge of everything is exhausting, so I must remind myself that people really are happy to help.
So many people have been in touch thanking me for the session. It was just as wonderful for me as it was for them – without the singers I would just have been standing in a garden waving my arms about. It was a beautiful place to sing, and we are already thinking that we might come back here now and again even when we are allowed to rehearse indoors. “Sorry if I lost concentration for a while there,” said one singer, “I was watching the swallows.”