How are we managing during the pandemic when we can’t rehearse and perform together indoors?
On March 9, 2020, 110 singers gathered at Sinclair Community College to prepare songs for the Poor People’s Campaign and Reverend Dr. William Barber’s scheduled visit to Dayton in April. The energy was infectious, the sound deeply moving. At the same time, we were working toward a concert with MUSE Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir to perform a work, Lifting As We Climb, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment.
Sadly, our in person rehearsals stopped the next day because of the COVID outbreak. Everything on our schedule was cancelled. We miss the beauty, the human connection, expression and spiritual balm we experience when we together sing in community, The choral arts nourish a deep human need.
When COVID numbers started down in late June, the choir held rehearsals outside behind Mills Lawn School. We were physically distanced and wore masks. We prepped music for Black Lives Matter appearances in Dayton and for the Yellow Springs “Speaking Up for Justice” rallies. In late August, the choir organized a program and performed at the Yellow Springs Women’s Park to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote.
Once the COVID numbers started creeping back up, we decided it unwise to rehearse in person and went back into the Zoom world. During these online rehearsals we’ve learned a few new songs, but primarily we sing pieces we know. We’ve also invited guests for learning sessions. In November, Dr. Tammy Kernodle, Professor of Musicology at Miami University, presented two sessions on Black women composers, resistance culture and the American concert hall, as well as a discussion about the current culture of protest music. These were followed by workshops hosted by folksinger Reggie Harris, and local Native American, Dawn Knickerbocker.
During the fall of 2020, we worked hard to create our first virtual choir performance, All Lifted Hearts. It features Barbara Leeds on piano, five string players, and over sixty singers. To date it has received over 4200 views on our YouTube channel.
We were also pleased to perform virtually for Agraria’s 2020 fall conference, “Pathways to Regeneration: Restoration, Resiliency & Reciprocity.” We took our performances of two movements from the Missa Gaia: Earth Mass [Mystery and Blue Green Hills of Earth] and combined them in videos with images. In January 2021, we participated in the virtual King Day Celebration in Yellow Springs with two videos of our performances of March On and We Shall Not Be Moved.
We look forward to the time when we can again sing together in person and perform in our community. Watch this space.