Like a tree that falls in a forest where no one is there to hear it, is a choir heard if they sing out and there is no live audience? The answer is a resounding yes, according to Mark Vuorinen, conductor for The Elora Singers and artistic director for the Elora Festival.
Starting mid-November, audiences can subscribe to four different online concert performances by The Elora Singers that they can watch from the comfort of their own home.
Like so many other art forms, the pandemic’s resulting closures meant the Grammy and JUNO-nominated chamber choir had to re-imagine how they could carry on without live audiences. One of their premiere performance venues, the Elora Festival, was cancelled due to the pandemic this past summer.
“We didn’t want to go dark or silent so we took an opportunity this past summer to try an online format and invited some of our musical guests to give concerts in their homes or studio spaces in distanced and safe ways,” says Mark. “We quickly found there was an online audience.”
On-going social distancing measures creates a non-traditional setting for the choir members, who normally stand shoulder-to-shoulder and take many musical cues from their conductor’s facial expressions.
“We have nine or 10 feet between each singer and they remain masked,” says Mark. “It takes some adjustments because as the conductor, I use my face expressively for emotion and sound emphasis and I am also wearing a mask in these performances.”
The Elora Singers worked with production crews in Hamilton to achieve multiple camera angles and a setting that will provide a professional concert look-and-feel for viewers. Subscribers to any of the concert packages will be provided with a code so that they can access the online program. Links for the first concert will remain live until December 4 and Nativity Festival concerts will be live up until January 3 so that the performances can be enjoyed more than once.
The Elora Singers will present variable ticket prices and ask ticket purchasers to consider how many people in their household will be watching the program.
“Like all professional artists, the loss of venues and performance opportunities has affected the income of our singers so we’re very grateful for any donations to our organization,” says Mark.
The first performance, called Hope and Refuge, launches on November 14. It is a choral presentation built around American composer Jake Runestad’s The Hope of Loving.
“Hope and Refuge recognizes that this pandemic is an all-encompassing phenomenon and that there is a role for the choral arts to be a part of the consolation or healing process.” - Mark Vuorinen
“Hope and Refuge recognizes that this pandemic is an all-encompassing phenomenon and that there is a role for the choral arts to be a part of the consolation or healing process,” says Mark. “We are all in this, day in and day out, and trying to punch forward in this new reality but at a certain point we need to grieve – whether it is for people or jobs or financial security or even an aspect of our lives that we thought was untouchable and that is the role that the arts play – to make comment on these larger societal issues.”
In December, The Elora Singers celebrate the holiday season with A Nativity Festival which will feature a weekly, Saturday evening concert for the three weeks leading up to Christmas. The first program, A Quiet Village will feature Toronto-based harpist Julia Seager-Scott with The Elora Singers in Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols.’ The second program, A Village Messiah will be a traditional performance of Handel’s Messiah, with soloists from the ranks of the choir. The holiday theme will wrap up with A Festival of Carols, featuring new and traditional choral music plus whimsical, nostalgic and comforting stories delivered by celebrity readers.
“When we’ll return to live performing, I don’t know,” says Mark. “There will be a hangover from the pandemic’s impact but there are also silver linings, such as this online series, where we’re forced to re-imagine everything we do and new ways of doing them.”
Tickets for The Elora Singers’ online performances are on sale now and can be ordered online at www.elorasingers.ca.