“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius
The end of the choral year is fast approaching and ChoralNetters have some thoughts.
Jock* tells me it’s been an almost normal choral year for him and for his high school students. There were two times they had to return to remote learning, but after all the experience they’ve had BEFORE this year setting up technology, it’s been a piece of cake. They were able to pick up where they left off until they could be in-person again.
He also tells me there are things he’s had to do this year that are unlike anything he’s done in the past. At first, he really minded but this year, he did not. His standards for many things have had to change, not exactly lowering, more like adapting to the current situation. He realized his idea of perfection had to change because there was NO WAY he could hold himself and his students to what he regarded, before COVID, as acceptable. To hold everyone to their former standard seemed unrealistic and a bit cruel.
One of the things he had to change was repertoire. He still chose things that was challenging for his top choral groups but decided to choose repertoire with no divided parts. While he used to pride himself on being able to program any SSAATTBB piece he pleased, this year he chose only SATB, with an occasional divisi in a few phrases. He reasoned it made sense to get all sections singing the same notes at the same time if they had to be remote. He’s happy he did. His groups, all of them, sound really good and their blend is better than in years past, despite having to be remote for several weeks. Jock actually doesn’t mind programming this way, even if the reason is COVID, because the end performance will be very good for their concert in a few weeks.
Dani* always tells folks that she is not exactly an easy-going person. Driven, accomplished and not willing to settle for anything less than the best, she drives those she works with toward perfection as well as herself. When COVID hit, it devastated her in many ways since she could no longer strive for what she perceived necessary.
At the beginning of COVID restrictions, the highly auditioned community chorus she directs tried to stay afloat anyway they could. They usually functioned financially from ticket sales and donations and a grant or two. Of course, there were no ticket sales, donations were down and while they did qualify for a grant or two, it was much less than in years past. They’ve tried remote rehearsals, parking lot concerts, outdoor “sings” and anything else leadership could come up with to get the singers singing and their audience listening. And Dani was having trouble coping. It wasn’t until her mother suggested she “take it down a notch” that things improved for her and for her community chorus.
Her Mom, whom she wasn’t able to see for almost a year, explained everyone is struggling and perhaps if she were a bit more relaxed and tried to think outside of the box, something good could come from it. Dani knew that was true, but it wasn’t until Good Ol’ Mom spelled it out that she finally understood. And because she was not able to see her Mom in-person, it had much more significance.
Dani began by having Facebook Live Events, sometimes joined by a singer or two or a Board Member, via Zoom. She talked about the music they had sung during the last few seasons and played excerpts. She talked about repertoire they planned to program in the near future, when restrictions were lifted. Many of her viewers were her singers, who wanted that personal, without mask connection. She decided to do Facebook Live during their usual rehearsal time and took questions, then asked her own. They shared fund raising ideas, music, memories of concerts past and how their families were fairing. It was a good experience, one Dani cherishes, and her Board plans to incorporate in their “after COVID” life.
They had an in-person concert in December, one in March and their final concert will be the beginning of June. Rehearsals began in August, normal enough, and have continued their usual way. Dani tells me she is changed, and in a good way. She’s much more relaxed. There are things that don’t matter to her as much as they used to, and life is much better for her AND her chorus.