Keep singing: How to keep a choir going during a pandemic!

Photo showing several members of the choir rehearsing via the Zoom videoconferencing app.
Gospel Generation Community Choir rehearsing via the Zoom videoconferencing app.

By Emma Smallwood, Gospel Generation Community Choir.

March seems a long time ago now. Life has changed so much since then. Covid-19 has meant we have had to all change and adapt how we do life, and our choir is no exception. Gospel Generation Community Choir (GGCC) is five choirs that meet across Bristol. We have a Stoke Gifford choir which meets at the St Michael’s Centre in North Road. Our choirs were due to perform in concert on 20th March. We had all been working so hard and were really looking forward to sharing our songs with our audience. Then… lockdown came! All plans were cancelled – initially we thought just postponed until the  summer term.

Our choirs are not just places people come to sing. They are places where people feel part of a community, they have made new friendships and have been on a journey together. To suddenly stop seeing everyone and effectively all be on our own was not something we wanted. So, we – Emma (as choir director) and my filmmaker husband Var Smallwood (www.telling.video) – started making YouTube singing rehearsals in our lounge! This wasn’t something we had ever envisaged doing but soon the choir members were feeding back how much they enjoyed them. Choir members also recorded greeting messages on their phones and sent them in; they were then included. At the time of writing, we have made 14 ‘GGCC Choir at Home’ sessions, and more are on their way.

Life before Zoom also seems hard to remember! Technology most of us had never heard of, let alone used, has now become part of our lives. When it became obvious lockdown was continuing for quite a while we began having online Zoom choir rehearsals as well. Choir directors across the globe have had to quickly find a new way of teaching singing, using Zoom, when they can’t hear anyone singing! The mute function is a very necessary one, not because people’s singing is bad(!) but because of all the delay across the internet. We have also held choir socials, quizzes and had an end of term Zoom party.

We have done a recording as a choir in which we were joined by members of three other choirs in the GGCC national network to record an original gospel spiritual very aptly called ‘Day of Trouble’. The multiscreen choir video has now become the norm – who’d have thought?!

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Autumn term

It looks like choirs aren’t going to be able to meet for some time still, so we’ve planned our online autumn term with an online Christmas concert! The beauty of online rehearsals is that anyone, anywhere can join it. So, if any of you reading this would like to join us in September, please email gospelgen@googlemail.com

If you would like to see our YouTube videos then our website has a link: www.ggcc.org.uk

It is truly remarkable to be able to say that after six plus months of not being able to meet, our choir is still going strong and excited about the future!

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on page 28). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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