Taking a vibrant, happy choir out of their comfort zone, away from each other and into lockdown could’ve been disastrous for us. The technology isn’t available for us to ‘sing together’ online. Facebook live doesn’t have the capacity for it and on zoom all singers need to be muted because of the time delay. What could we do?

I wanted to carry on for the sake of the community we had built and for the mental health of my singers – and me. So, we continued to rehearse, despite all of our gigs being cancelled. I created a membership group on Facebook and used the live feature to ‘broadcast’ from my living room once a week. I watched the videos and collaborations seeping onto social media of other choirs and what they were doing and made a decision to create something similar.

I needed to get the trust of my singers first – to show them that we were still able to create lovely pieces. They needed to get confident with the new way of rehearsing and listening too their own voices at home. We sang along to our own recordings most weeks. (Luckily I’d been recording rehearsals for months and so these were very useful). It was the closest we could get to singing ‘together’ as we used to. By May, I was ready to ask them to record.

It’s a convoluted process to say the least. Singers have to watch a you tube video of me conducting (to keep them in time) with an earpiece in one ear on one device, whilst recording themselves into another. This way I get a clean acapella track from each of them which I could then mix together at home in my studio.

Ableton Live is my choice of mixing software.

Our first song ‘Sweet Disposition’ was an old favourite. It’s split into 6 parts which sounds complicated, but people only have to learn one part after all! 51 separate vocal recordings came to me to be mixed. The result was amazing! I even managed to get the video footage from a gig last November, from our archive (Richard!) and out the two together in iMovie.

It gave the singers a reason, a purpose to still come along to sing,. We had created something tangible, something which we could share and listen to together. Something to be proud of. One of my favourite comments came from Ruth who said that when she heard it, she had the same feelings that she does when we perform it live. Amazing.

And so it continued. Singers for braver recording more parts, pushing themselves to learn different bits and exploring their voices further. Songs got trickier – Chocolate being the hardest of all! And we continue to grow as a group…. we are now taking on songs which we have learned totally online so there’s no frame of reference for the singers, but I know they can do it. I believe in them.

Chocolate – The Lockdown Mix June 2020

I’m unable to say when we can get back together and sing together in a large hall but I’m almost certain it won’t be all 120 of us at once. I may have to adapt and change yet again and create ‘pocket choirs’ of smaller numbers until we have the all clear and it’s safe to return. But I do know that as a choir we will flourish and develop and be together even though we are apart.

Photo credit Jackie Shears