By Amanda Cator
I joined Sing! Community Choir in January 2021 online during lockdown. I’m often asked about why I joined a choir online in the middle of a global pandemic. Well, why not? What a great way to relieve the cabin fever imposed by lockdown through embracing the positive energy which singing seems to generate. Choir really changed my Thursday evenings.
It was great to finally meet the choir members in July as the first in-person choir meet-ups started in a marquee outdoors. The biggest surprise on the first evening was around how tall or short everyone appeared, having only ever seen them on Zoom!
Choir began to meet in-person in a school hall from September. Within a week or two, we all became more than aware that we were moving at a fast pace towards preparing for the first post-lockdown Sing! concert only weeks away in November; giving us the chance to really hone all those songs we had become so dedicated to practicing and singing through in our own living rooms on mute.
As the weeks progressed, choir meet-ups became rehearsals. We spent less time in our particular voice part groups, and more time singing all those songs through as a whole choir. More emphasis was placed each week on doing your homework: Listening to your part tracks and revising from the lyric sheets, so helpfully prepared to support us by the Sing! committee.
Suddenly, the last two ‘longer’ rehearsals arrived where real commitment was needed from those intending to sing in the concert in order to make up for the lost time caused by lockdown, with no lyric sheets and the full repertoire of 18 months of songs to sing through and perfect.
Not only were we brushing up on singing during this time but lists of tasks to make the concert actually happen appeared, incorporating all those extra COVID-safe guidelines which were necessary for us to adhere to, as well as ticket sales, poster bombing, staging and sound set up, baking and sanitizing everything! Precision planning.
The atmosphere at rehearsals was electric. Every time we sang through a song we were clapping and encouraging one another – especially when ‘Everything’s Easy’ or ‘Best Day Of My Life’ just went right, or we correctly practiced our clapping, stamping and dooting in ‘On Top Of The World’. The hardest part was getting to grips with those songs which had been taught before I joined the choir.
Concert day arrived – Saturday 13 November – a milestone achievement in the Sing! choir calendar. We had reached the date with no further restrictions being imposed on singing. The morning was spent in an anxious and excited state, clock-watching, baking and feeling that there were still lyrics that I knew so well at the Thursday rehearsal which had just disappeared from my mind by Saturday morning!
I arrived promptly at St Barnabas Church at 3.45pm, feeling like there was a marathon to run ahead of me. I remember thinking as warm-up started in the hall – there’s not many of us here! But that soon changed as a nervous excitement filled the room as more choir members arrived and we started to run through the programme of songs. In no time at all, we were ushered into the church building, our auditorium, for sound checks. I was standing on stage thinking ‘Wow, this is what it will really be like!’. Two hours vanished and it was breaktime.
Choir members rushed around to eat, change, set out refreshments and open the doors. The time flew and suddenly it was 7.25pm. With nervous anticipation around whether the auditorium was full or not, our moment had finally arrived. I’ll never forget that feeling as we walked up between 200 chairs of masked guests to the stage. We were almost unable to believe that we were there, searching the crowds through the spotlights for our own guests – and we were off! We started with ‘Some Nights’, the first song l learnt with Sing! on Zoom. This seemed meaningful somehow. Suddenly, we just seemed to relax and enjoyed performing with a fantastic finish to the first half with ‘On Top Of The World’.
Within no time, we were heading back to the stage again after the interval – by now, we knew what to expect and were enjoying the concert as much as the audience. We were encouraged after each song by our fabulous conductors and greeted with a final round of applause from the audience as we finished with our party piece ‘This is Me’ accompanied with sign language actions performed by some clever members. We burst into an encore of … you’ve guessed it, ‘On Top Of The World’. Well, if we had been waiting to smile (as the name of the concert says), that encore certainly did it!
Huge thanks to the entire Sing! committee for the weeks of hard work and preparing us all to deliver a great and long-awaited performance. I don’t think any concert preparation will ever be so hard again, but all that extra effort seemed to make this return to singing for a live audience all the more worthwhile, and certainly more memorable to be involved in. As a concert newbie, I’m looking forward now to encouraging and welcoming other new choir members towards their first concert in the same way that I was encouraged and supported through this as my first concert.
Photos: Graeme Leese