Welcome to this summer series on questions and possibilities for a new era in our personal lives, professional lives, the choral landscape, and in society! I’m so glad you’re here for the journey.
As I was preparing for this week’s post, I re-read the earlier entries I wrote and remembered the mindset I was in at the time. During the first post, vaccines were on the rise and COVID was on the retreat. I was feeling optimistic that we were starting to turn a corner on the pandemic and hopeful that the summer would provide a bridge to fewer masked gatherings. Unfortunately, that scenario has not panned out yet. The Delta variant has spread like wildfire. At my church, various restrictions have been put back into place.
We are still in a new era, just not that new era I had hoped for back in June 2021. On the other hand, I am thankful that we are not in the same place we were in back in August 2020. We know much more how to rehearse ensembles safely. I would suspect that virtual choirs will be much less a part of the choral landscape during this current academic year.
Luckily this time around, I feel as if I have more information to help me through this season. Yet, I find that I still have a lot of questions. Early in the pandemic, I heard someone remark, “It’s like we’re trying to cross a bridge and build it at the same time.” It still feels like that.
Over the summer, I was reminded how important community is to choirs and worshipping communities. I’ve been thinking about how to strengthen community, especially in these challenging times. I’ve been asking myself a few questions that I don’t have the answers to yet. In my adult Chancel Choir, there are several members who don’t feel comfortable returning to choir just yet because the Delta variant is so widespread. How do I keep them connected to the Chancel Choir community even if they’re not physically present at rehearsals or in worship? In the past, I’ve done a number of types of fellowship events that have been successful in multiple churches. From my perspective, many of those events are off the table because they involve a large group of people indoors for a few hours. How do I pivot to activities that build community, yet are safe?
And that was an example of only one ensemble! Regarding the worshipping community as a whole at my congregation, many have elected to stay home on Sunday mornings and watch worship from home. How do I help them stay connected to the whole congregation?
From a musical standpoint, I also have some unanswered questions. Earlier in the summer, we had increased the number of singers allowed in the Chancel. Now due to social distancing, I’m limited to 18 singers in the Chancel. However, I have more than 18 singers in the Chancel Choir. How do I rotate ensemble members so each singer has an equal opportunity to sing in choir in worship?
One of the greatest joys I have is presenting an Advent/Christmas concert in December. Normally that would be an event where I could recruit and gain a number of additional singers. Even without the additional singers, I would have a much larger choir than spacing allows. How do I involve all singers equally? In addition, while I hope the Delta variant improves by December, things could be the same or worse than they are now. In that light, it may not be wise to have an audience. In that case, might I simply record the concert and release it online? When would that decision need to be made? I’m sure many of you may be asking similar questions.
Another series of questions I have is about success. How do I evaluate this year? What does success look like this year? Perhaps more than ever it’s more about quality than quantity, process over product. Perhaps I could intentionally leave time for more skill-building or more questions that would engage singers in the music.
Apart from professional considerations, this is a perfect time to self-reflect and figure out the right balance for me between work and other areas of my life. Before the pandemic, it was easy for work to be all-consuming. Now, it’s even easier. Above all, I try to remind myself that I haven’t lived through a pandemic before. Even though we’re a year and a half in, let’s all treat ourselves kindly and with compassion.
Perhaps you have some answers from questions asked in the post. If so, I’d love to hear them! Comment below. In the meantime, let us be inspired by this rendition of “Be Thou My Vision” from 2013 from First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.