The West Bridgford Liberty Singers became the Online Liberty Singers in March 2020. We all know why. We started on Facebook live, then graduated to zoom the following October. Roughly 100 brave souls stayed with us online learning new material, creating virtual recordings and pretending to be at gigs. We recruited singers from all over the place; people who ordinarily would not have been able to join us. We recruited some new local singers…. and some patiently waited for our return.
On August 16th we ran a test session – 20 singers in the hall and the rest at home on zoom – this was to make sure we could successfully create hybrid sessions moving forwards. Some people weren’t ready to come back, some were isolating, some had covid and some lived too far away. But they’re all Liberty Singers and so we wanted to include them as much as possible.
We decided to split the choir in half for our return in September. This meant we were able to space chairs sufficiently for our singers to feel comfortable and still together. Very roughly the ‘Songbirds’ were the singers who had continued online and the ‘Nightingales’ were loosely the people who had been waiting to return face to face. (We also had the Alkonosts – the mythical birds who were all staying online) But of course, some people wanted to be in other groups to stay with their friends and this is essential, so adjustments were made. I could not have done this without Kate Cobbe my PA who negotiated the Paypal system, emails, facebook messenger and general questions from everyone. But by Monday 6th September we were ready to return.
It was glorious! Just to see people’s faces, to see how pleased they were to be together again!
The laughter! (I’ve no idea what these lot were laughing at… could’ve been any one of a few things to be honest!)
We introduced our new singers whilst getting back in the swing of saying hello to the older singers – it was amazing.
And then we sang.
To be perfectly honest, I’d been slightly dreading this moment. What if we weren’t as good as we used to be? What if we’d lost our skills? The ability to listen to each other? The subtle harmonies we’d worked so hard on…..
I should’ve known better than to worry. There were honestly times when it sounded like we’d never been apart. Some of our old favourite songs were still as strong and sweet as they alway were. It was amazing.
We aren’t taking on any gigs this year. Certainly not indoor ones. We just want to get ourselves back to ‘where we were’ and enjoy the pleasure of singing together again. When we are ready, we will share this with the world.
I was asked last week how did the online zoom sessions compare to singing together. There is no comparison. I’m grateful for zoom – we could not have carried on without it! But hearing each other and the feelings we get from singing together in the same room are so, so strong. I’m delighted to be back with everyone. And I think they are too…
“We were so pleased to be back at ‘proper’ choir on Monday. Meeting online has been challenging, not the same atmosphere, dogs barking when they don’t like our songs, other family members to fit round, It was fantastic to be back with real people, to see our friends again, and to sing some great songs.”
Margaret & Emma
“Personally, I wasn’t worried about coming back, having been working in the office for most of lockdown, but I know some people were a little reticent about coming into a confined space with lots of other people. (My main worry was getting to grips with the tech stuff, such as paying online and signing in with a QR code)!
It was great to see people again after such a long time apart and feel the sense of camaraderie in the room.
Once we started singing, apart from the distance between me and the person next to me, it was as though we had never been away.
When we sang the old favourites I got a tingle down my spine and when we were learning the new songs, I remembered another reason why I liked coming to choir; the challenge!
When you are at home it is too easy to get distracted, but standing in the hall you concentrate and can put your heart and soul into it for those two short hours then you go home with the adrenaline coursing through your veins (and pour yourself a glass of wine as you walk in the door)!” Julie
“There were smiles, there were tears, there were masks, there were hugs. The lack of mute button was evident, it was hard to stop the chatting to start the singing. And then we sang…and it was as if we’d never been away, even if our harmonies were a bit all over the place!! Can’t wait for Monday to come along again ” Marijke
“It was such a joy to be back amongst so many friendly faces . It’s been a challenging time for everyone and a return to face to face choir feels like a really optimistic moment ! We may have been a little rusty but certainly haven’t lost our enthusiasm …much laughter and happiness !” Rebecca