Singing in the Time of Covid
Updated: Feb 14
Talk about whiplash! In February 2020 we had delivered one of our best performances to a spillover crowd at the Warwick Public Library; the PR machine was cranking; Barbara-Ann was book ing more performances as fast as requests came in. On March 3, 2020, we had just come off a high-energy coaching session in preparation for the Area 2 Contest & Convention in April. We did not know that it would be our last in-person rehearsal for 6 months. In late March, Rhode Island went into lockdown, businesses closed, events were cancelled (including the Area 2 competition, and we all found ourselves sheltering at home, cut off not only from the singing, but from the sisterhood and support that went with it. What's a barbershopper to do??
Answer: Virtual Happy Hour!! Our first tech-challenged Zoom session came with a beverage of choice. Such a relief to see the faces and catch up! We kept up these sessions at semi-regular intervals for several months, but our music was withering on the vine. When July rolled around, the chorus leadership decided that we had to get back to rehearsing in whatever form that needed to take, so HH Zoom Happy Hour became HH Zoom rehearsals. Our Director, Bob O'Connell would review the music with us, then challenge us as individuals to sing our part with audio while everyone else sang along on mute.
By September, conditions in the state has eased enough to allow for open air, socially distanced in-person rehearsals at Slater Park in Pawtucket. We sang under the grove, outside the tennis courts, under the open air shelter with the rain beating down, always with a few Zoom participants on Camilla's cell phone. On one occasion we brought the party to one of our own in Riverside, entertaining the neighbors with a backyard rehearsal.
Missing our audiences, some of us sought virtual outlets, joining Harmony Inc.'s International Chorus with virtual song presentations, Narragansett Bay Men's Chorus, The Raceand #REalTalk Virtual ensemble. A high Point of these endeavors was when we joined with our sister chapter , NoteAble Blend in a virtual presentation of "With a Little Help From My Friends."
For many months and into 2021, we continued going back and forth between Zoom and in-person rehearsals at Slater Park through the summer. Over that time, we temporarily lost our rehearsal space at St. Paul's, as well as losing our spot at Slater Park to a children's concert in September. We were determined to move indoors to make any progress in our music, so we first tried St. Mary's in Pawtucket, with its stunningly beautiful sanctuary and daunting stairs, then on to the Murray Church sanctuary in Attleboro, with its great acoustics, three baby grand pianos and strict masking requirements. Then unexpectedly, St. Paul's became available again. and from October, through early December, we held in-person rehearsals with masking, a practice that paid off in protecting us when one of our members came down with Covid, and no one else caught it. Now, with the Omicron variant, we are back to rehearsing on Zoom.
Thanks to the prolific talents of our Director/Arranger Bob O'Connell, we have added 13 new songs to our repertoire and welcomed 5 (5!!) new members to our chorus. Welcome, Karen, Mary, Shaundra, Maria and Lisa!! And welcome back Carol, Sharon and Cheryl from sunny Florida!
No matter the variant or the venue, we will find a way to make 2022 another year filled with sisterhood, support and song.