Today we have a Guest Blogger, my accompanist and assistant, Ben Amenta, who is also my son. He has a few ideas about how we can get through the next few months as well as prepare for the time we can all sing together. With much love, MLGA
Choir Present and Future: How Choral Musicians Can Overcome the Pandemic
Hello, I’m Ben, the son of Marie, the Choral Ethics blogger. I too am a choral musician and have substantial training in piano and organ; and have also studied the cello and harpsichord. Like Marie, I am concerned with how musicians treat one another. Today Marie has asked me to discuss how we as choral musicians deal with this awful pandemic. First, I begin with good news, then discuss problems, and briefly express a possible and hopeful framework beyond COVID-19.
Many of us are concerned about being rusty once relatively normal choir singing begins. First, if one is not advised or required to self-isolate or quarantine, then there is nothing stopping one from singing or practicing singing in one’s home. It is not a sin to do this but perhaps solidarity for fellow singers who are not able might keep us from doing so. When things resume, we can help one another improve. Secondly, one may also take advantage of the “zoom” app and/or other social media. There are three problems to deal with in the present.
The first is safety. Please follow safety guidelines (choral, but also in other social situations) and follow temporary laws, the key word being “temporary” because humanity will get through this! These are designed to alleviate, so when things do return, for example there will be a good number of people in choir.
Second is knowing and dealing with mostly beneficial technology; with virtually any reasonably beneficial technology, there are indeed many benefits, and a few drawbacks. A general example is the “google maps app” vs. a globe. The google maps app indeed provides much wonderful information, but the globe can literally be touched and if one has access to a globe, it is faster. The globe’s mere seconds access to the internet app’s half-a-minute or so.
Regarding those of us in choral singing who use “zoom” here are a few issues. One needs to spend time learning the technology, which uses time and energy, sometimes with frustrations and a new set of etiquette. With learning and more grace in etiquette, one is required to have patience. Computers are complicated, and if one is not a professional programmer per se, problems can pop up like a wack-a-mole. Technological problems with “zoom rehearsals” have included, (1) about a second delay between live and ether, (2) being mirrored, (3) brightness, (4) when it is appropriate to be muted, (5) sound quality, (6) getting kicked off without seemingly knowing why, (7) and problems with tardiness to name a few. And how one might deal with these? Whoever is directing may be inspired to “conduct ahead.” With being mirrored, it may be fine as long as one has right from left straight to one’s preference, and brightness is also personal taste. Muting the choir is a new way for its discipline, hearing one’s self and watching while rehearsing. Frustrations with sound quality are a problem to be dealt with patience and less judgment. With getting kicked off, one needs to know one’s technology better, with diligence and patience. In terms of tardiness, an old adage: “If you are early, you are on time. If you are on time you are late. And if you are late, well…” One needs to plan ahead similar to one planning to commute or travel but instead of physically traveling, planning, nonetheless.
Thirdly, we see our arts organizations struggling, and choir and band programs cut in schools. It has usually been because people “can’t afford them.” This “argument” is being used even more because of this pandemic. But the principle goal of life is never to acquire the most sheets of green paper or to “get ahead.” Neither is it true money grows on trees. And we are encouraged to not be afraid. One’s economic value is how fruitful and/or germinative one is; beautiful choral music is included among these preferred things. Once this is firmly understood, monetary theories and practices are given a proper lens.
I conclude trying to renew our hope after COVID-19. Being a part of the American Choral Director’s Association, let us be inspired by Mr. Biden; the soul of choral music will be restored and built back better. We can have “zoom rehearsals” on snow days, or have an ill person observe via zoom, and have additional artistry of concerts being used with zoom. Lastly, one day people will be able to sing wholesomely and freely in homes, schools, streets, churches, over the ether, and at concerts.
Until next week, be well and be safe!
We are taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join us there this morning! https://www.facebook.com/themidwestmotetsociety/