As the World Health Organisation declared Covid 19 no longer to be a global health emergency last week, it got me thinking about how much we were all affected by this phenomenal event. Our lives were changed forever but the familiarity of choir brought so many of us a level of stability and, without question, helped the state of our mental health.
It almost feels like a dream, like a hazy memory of a film you know you watched but can’t quite recall all the details…
One thing I do remember is how Abi and Ross continued to keep the choirs running, how they literally jumped on every opportunity to keep us singing and as united as possible during the turmoil of it all. I hadn’t long been working for them - I only started that January but how they dealt with what was to come didn’t surprise me at all.
‘Homesing’ was born, a virtual rehearsal taken by them both from their home in Whitstable. Every session was filled with lighthearted fun bringing a bit of ‘normal’ into our lives and allowing those who felt isolated and scared to enjoy an hour or so of music, company and, most importantly, connection
As things eased, they were joined by Eleanor, the only additional leader at that time, who would sing with them, (socially distanced of course!) in their garden so we had the familiarity of our three leaders keeping us afloat! Not only did we have these virtual sessions but our fun loving Directors, being the people they are, organised themed quiz nights, karaoke sing alongs and Ross even set up a choir for our kids to keep them entertained to give them (and us!) some respite from the dreaded Homeschooling!
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we were able to rehearse again ‘in person’ - the only snag, we all had to wear masks, not the most ideal circumstances for belting out a song! Again though, our Directors were straight on it, consulting with an amazing seamstress and choir member, Jo, about developing a mask we could sing with. They were fairly ugly, it has to be said, being structured in a way that made us look like a room of black beaked Donald Ducks but…..they worked! We could sing freely without affecting those around us -genius!
Each choir also had two ‘sittings’ allowing us to rehearse safely and together with social distancing in place - it was a mad rush for Eleanor and I to thoroughly anti-bac every chair, handle, toilet and tap ready for the next group. We would all be wrapped up in coats and scarves due to the doors and windows being wide open for ventilation but we all sang our hearts out and enjoyed the feeling of making music together - it’s madness thinking back to it now!
Slowly, after a few false starts, we started to get back to a new kind of normal. We all gradually returned to the monotony of ‘normal’ life after being on this scary journey together. So many people suffered, were tragically lost and many are still suffering now from the aftershocks of the virus but, at the same time, it produced many, many kinds of wonderful.
Choir helped keep so many people stay hopeful, happy and positive. It was invaluable for those struggling with isolation - that half hour catch up chat after each Homesing session probably meant more to many members than the singing itself if the truth be known...
Sadly, many choirs were forced to shut down during and after the pandemic. Incredibly, UK Soul Choirs survived and I know for a fact that this was down to the tenacity, passion and love that was poured into it from the Directors and the team they had around them. They were determined to create a lifeline for their members and pulled out every stop, large or small, to make it happen - something they continue to do.