As we gear up to sing together again at last, SOUND soprano Jo reflects on how creativity and community have endured throughout the pandemic.
Amazing to think that this September marks 18 months since we last rehearsed together in person. All
being well, we should finally be able to get together again very soon – it will be emotional! Of all the
ways the pandemic has affected our lives, amateur choirs not being able to sing together may seem
trivial, but everyone who sings regularly knows how hard and cruel Covid has been for us. And most of
us are not even trying to make a living from singing/performing. This period has been grim for
I am in awe of all the choir directors around the world who have managed to keep their choirs going
during this time – adapting, learning new skills and finding the endless reserves of energy and
enthusiasm that have been required to make it work. Knowing how important singing is for wellbeing, I
feel they too have been essential workers helping us to get through this difficult period and bringing
meaning to our days.
Our incredible Liz Swain has – as always – been inspirational, finding ways for us to continue to develop
and share the joys of vocal music during this extended lockdown. In SOUND, we immediately moved to
Zoom rehearsals and then felt our way towards what worked best – ending up with fortnightly sessions,
lots of fun warm ups (dancing played a big part, plus some great call and response to Bill Withers – pure
joy!), and mixing things up with workshops to learn new skills rather than worrying too much about note
bashing new tunes. I’ve learned so much in the past year – from beatboxing tips to songwriting and
arrangement. It’s been a wonderful and vital distraction amid all the pandemic chaos.
And we’ve also managed to learn some fabulous new music: Laura Mvula, Earth Wind and Fire, ELO and
Seal. There really is nothing like a great tune to keep you going and positive when other aspects of life
are so difficult.
While in some ways it’s been impossible to rehearse properly virtually, I’ve found that weirdly it has
helped us focus on some aspects of singing that maybe took a back seat before. Virtual recordings
require a lot of attention to detail that I realise I had taken for granted when singing together. When
everyone is recording parts separately, you really need to know how long to hold a note, what vowel
sound to use, volume, texture, eek! Video recordings have also been an experience – one that frankly
has required a lot of creativity and resilience, but which has also been instructive on ways of
communicating and engaging an audience with only your face in view. I’m excited to see how we use
some of these new skills when we can start performing again.
I have also felt more aware of my own voice and how it sits with others. It’s been quite an emotional
experience creating virtual performances and being able to hear others’ voices when you can’t be
together in person. It’s made me realise quite how special it is to be part of this joyful collective of
talents. SOUND has always had a diverse group of singers – with different musical backgrounds and
experience, and wide-ranging tastes in music, but a shared love of groove and harmonies. It’s always
been exciting to discover what we can create together, and I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to keep
developing, creating and supporting each other despite being apart.
When it works, a choir is a community, a family, a source of solace and of inspiration. Between us,
SOUND members have experienced pretty much everything this past year and a half in our personal lives:
both unimaginable loss and great joys – life in all its colours. Making music has never been more
important, so here’s hoping we can get back together and in front of an audience again, to create those
magical moments we’ve missed so much.