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Local groups find ways to sing together safely

By Jane Litchfield
1. A screen capture
A screen capture of the Royal City Ukulele ensemble collaboration with Ukelear Bomb (University of Guelph First Year Seminar) brought together by Cynthia Kinnunen

Singing together is one activity that has been hard hit by pandemic restrictions, but the connection and mental health boost it provides are more important than ever. GAC checked in with some local singing groups to find out how they have managed to come together safely in song.

Guelph Community Singers (GCS) is opening its virtual doors to singers from Guelph and beyond by running short, five-week sessions in 2020 and 2021. Members using Zoom are muted but watch and listen to musical director Henry Muth and accompanist Grace Peters. “It’s great to sing together even though we can’t be together,” says one long-time choir member. Members are welcome to unmute and mingle for 20 minutes at the end of each rehearsal. Next session starts January 13, 2021. New members welcome. Cost is $25 for five weeks. Rehearsals run Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

All Together Now has been hosting a weekly Tuesday night “Alone Together” Virtual Sing on Zoom. It’s a great way to exercise your voice and belt out songs from the comfort of home. Participants are muted and sing along with leaders Jane Lewis and Katherine Wheatley. 2021 registration is open.

Vocal Meditation sessions are also offered twice weekly on Zoom. These 45-minute sessions are intended to give a sense of calm and grounding to get through challenging times. Participants are muted, and Jane Lewis guides them through a vocal experience of sounding, toning, chanting and simple songs. Alone Together and Vocal Meditation run on a pay-what-you-can/donation basis.

Guelph Chamber Choir was planning for their 40th Anniversary 2020-21 season when the pandemic hit. They came up with a series of initiatives, including rehearsals outdoors and in a parking garage with a limited number of masked singers. They now rehearse weekly on Zoom. The choir also performed outside retirement residences, sponsors’ businesses, and in downtown Guelph and held a livestream carol sing-along. Members learned to record tracks resulting in two virtual recordings to-date. The choir also has a revitalized newsletter and a YouTube channel.

Watch for a virtual concert for Fourth Friday through Guelph Civic Museum on January 22. There is also an exhibit sharing stories about the choir at the museum through March 2021.

Rainbow Chorus Waterloo-Wellington (RCWW) is a community chorus that welcomes members of all genders, sexualities, and gender expressions and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, with no audition required. They put their musical programming on hold this fall and planned virtual social events and an outdoor carolling event.

Guelph Youth Singers (GYS) is an award-winning choir that has been working to build choral excellence in Guelph by developing the artistic soul and musical skills of children and youth for 30 years. They have also been offering online programming this fall.

Music educator and leader of Royal City Ukulele Ensemble Cynthia Kinnunen has also turned to technology to unite voices: “As many others have, in March 2020 I quickly familiarized myself with Zoom, which has become my primary teaching platform. I have been testing out emerging audio platforms with the potential of almost playing in time with others, like Jamulus, and expect to use that more in the new year. I’ve been including virtual audio recordings to provide playing challenges that I then build into a track (using Garageband) so we at least have the sense we’re making music together. Check out this collaboration we did in November. I will also feed these audio tracks through Zoom in classes so we all hear each other playing rather than just me leading. This holiday season, the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble did a set of audio recordings and then played along with them in Zoom to create a video. It’s a fun way to see and hear ourselves even if we cannot be together in person.”


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