For the Yellowknife Choral Society, the show must go on.
The group resumed in-person rehearsals this week with participants wearing masks and maintaining safe social distance from one another.
Mary Kelly, president of the society’s board of directors, says that even though this choir experience is going to be different, with so many activities on hiatus, “people are hungry for the community, and to be with other people.
“Singing is something that helps us feel better and to kind of soothe the soul when there’s lots of anxiety and maybe even boredom and loneliness,” she says.
For the adult choir, open to anyone high school-aged and older, more than 60 people have registered, surpassing the group’s in-person capacity limit of 45. As such, the society is adopting a “hybrid model” for in-person participation as well as those able to join rehearsals through Zoom.
Kelly suspects there may be some who would be more comfortable participating virtually anyways, but they may create shifts of in-person participants.
Though singing is an activity that is challenging to resume in a Covid world as it increases the omission of spit particles, YCS director Margo Nightingale assures that the choir puts “safety first.”
“We’re going to stay engaged, but we’re going to do it as safely as we know how,” she says.
Following the return of the first in-person rehearsal, Nightingale says “the mask and the six feet (of distance between people) just make it feel like we’re being standoffish with each other, which, as a group has not been our way of operating.”
Still, Nightingale says the society has “tried to develop that really open, friendly, welcoming persona.”
“It’s important to us for people to know that if they want connection, if they want a common cause, activity, point of friendship and support, that is what choir offers us while we’re learning new things together.”
Overall, Nightingale and Kelly agree the new measures are a small price to pay for coming back together, getting the “surround sound” musical experience, and allowing people to “continue this activity that is really meaningful to them,” Kelly says.
As far as performances, Nightingale is looking into producing a new format.
She says it’s likely they will do another virtual choir project, as they did in April and June, but she’d like to ask performers to bring their own writing forward – be it poetry, journal entries, or whatever else they choose.
“I’m hoping it will add a more personal element to what could be otherwise potentially quite impersonal,” she says. “Everybody understands that an online presentation is a canned product, and it can leave you feeling somewhat at a distance from the people who are in that project, at least that’s a fear that I have, and so I would like to engage with the singers in a much more direct level, and let them engage with our audience in a more direct level too.”
The choir has been active for more than 40 years. For the group to continue in spite of restrictions, Kelly says is “a testament to the history and the legacy of choir in Yellowknife.”