The Whitehorse Community Choir performs at a show in 2019. (Bruce Barrett/Submitted)

Whitehorse Community Choir sings in a new season

Voices will join together while being apart

A global pandemic is not stopping the Whitehorse Community Choir from raising its voices and performing for the community.

In an Aug. 31 interview, choir conductor and artistic director Barbara Chamberlin said she is getting ready for a very different season.

The Whitehorse Community Choir will become a virtual choir for the 2020-2021 season with plans to meet via Zoom each Monday beginning Sept. 14. Members will record their parts in the choir pieces, with the recordings then brought together in a video piece viewers can watch online.

The change comes following an abrupt end to last year’s season as many activities were ended and a number of businesses shut due to COVID-19.

While a number of in-person activities are starting up again this fall with restrictions in place to accommodate distancing and other measures to address COVID-19, there’s little way for a 60-person choir like the Whitehorse Community Choir to gather and practise in person as singing remains one of the biggest concerns around COVID transmission.

Schools have gone as far as not permitting singing in music classes and the like.

The situation in the spring left Chamberlin having to look at new ways to offer a choir experience.

“It’s the only direction you can really go,” she said of the virtual option.

Many choirs have made the virtual move for now and, Chamberlin said, after viewing a number of virtual performances there are many production options for the videos that allow for creativity.

Chamberlin described the upcoming season as a bit of an experiment.

She acknowledged it will be a very different choir experience for members, but also noted it is a good chance for prospective members to try it out, with registration being offered for free this season.

While much of Chamberlin’s work with the community choir is focused on preparing for the two seasonal performances (one at Christmas, the other to wrap up the season in spring), this year a lot of the work will focus on bringing the voices together using technology.

Chamberlin is anticipating to have the first of five videos to be produced through the year ready by mid-November, recognizing that it will likely have the biggest hurdles to get through. After creating that first one, Chamberlin expects the process will get easier.

Depending on how the season goes, Chamberlin is hopeful the choir will be able to do a few smaller in-person sessions that could be used in some videos. Perhaps it will mean having the various sections — say altos, for example — meet to perform their section for a video. Another section would meet at a different time for their section and so on, with the recordings being brought together through technology.

Chamberlin has already found and purchased some masks for singing that were originally set to be used for a memorial (though the memorial plans were changed.) There’s potential for the masks to be used if the choir, or sections of the choir, can once again practise together.

The masks, she explained, are designed with a cupped shape that allows the material to be further away from the nose and mouth than a traditional face mask. It makes singing more clear and allows for freer movement of the mouth than would typically happen with a mask. Much will depend on how the coming months go and health restrictions in place.

Chamberlin said she’s also looking at working with the Yukon Arts Centre in the future.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said of the possibilities for the coming year, noting much remains unknown.

While Chamberlin admits she’ll “miss the liveness of it all” as the choir moves to a virtual option for the 2020 year, she said she is pleased the community choir can welcome singers back this year after such an abrupt end in the spring.

Chamberlin said there’s already 35 registered, though it would be great to get some basses before the season begins.

She noted there are some members who aren’t interested in the virtual option and have opted to wait until the choir can meet in-person again. She reiterated that it’s a good opportunity for potential new members to try it out.

Members are asked to register online by Sept. 7 in order to get materials distributed to members before the first practice on Sept. 14.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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