I’m a member of the Newcastle City Council Choir. We formed several years ago when I worked for the Council. It was originally one of several staff health and well-being initiatives at a time when pressure of work often meant people would grab a sandwich at their desks for lunch and never took a break. That’s never good for stress levels and productivity! Since then we’ve continued singing both for our own enjoyment at hour-long weekly lunchtime practices and also performing, including at a number of civic events. Fortunately I wasn’t kicked out when I retired. We actually have several retired members, along with current staff who attend when they can, work commitments permitting.
We had to stop our sessions earlier in the year as the pandemic took hold and lockdown became imminent. After a few weeks our lovely choir leader started to run our weekly sessions online on Zoom. She’s done an amazing job keeping things going this way. It’s not exactly the same. We mute during the session while she is teaching us and we are singing along to the backing tracks she has created with all the different parts that harmonise together. Singing this way does have a few advantages though. Nobody can hear you screech if you make a mistake! If you normally sing a particular part (soprano, alto etc) you can experiment a bit and try other parts (again, nobody can hear you screech!). It takes time to learn all four parts of a new song. You can practice your own part to learn how the harmonies work together with the others as they learn theirs without disturbing them. When we met face-to-face I had a 60 mile round trip to get to Newcastle for choir practice, so I’d combine it with a shopping trip or maybe lunch with a friend – so I’m saving time, petrol and money. Above all it means I can stay in touch with my lovely choir friends and still do something that I really enjoy.
The jury was out for a long time on whether singing carried an additional COVID infection risk, in terms of projecting exhaled breath further during singing, but more recently scientific study has revealed that singing carries no more risk than talking. With the second wave of the virus taking hold there is no sign of getting together in person anytime soon but Zoom is working well as an alternative. We can share music and lyrics on the screen or through our shared Dropbox account, which also includes audio tracks to practice with in between sessions. The others kindly gave me permission to share some screenshots from yesterday (but I blanked out their names)
It was such a lovely session yesterday. We have a wide repertoire of material and we sang a fun Danish Halloween song, a pop classic (Titanium) and a couple of slightly Christmassy tunes. A beautiful, haunting lullaby (Lully Lulla Lullay) and Gaudeamus (that’s Latin for “we praise”). We finished off with one of our favourite rounds (and so appropriate to end the session): it’s called “Adios Amigos”.
I love singing with my choir!