26 Aug 2020
Covid-19 has impacted on all of us, including the enriching interactions and activities we previously took for granted and for many have disappeared from their lives.
This is keenly felt by those involved in music-making and in group singing activities in particular. Activities that offer singers the chance to hone their choral craft through regular rehearsals and performances, also provide opportunities for human connection, a break from the stresses of everyday life and bring huge benefits for mental and physical well being.
Local arts organisation, Allegri, is just one of the many groups who were faced with having to abruptly cancel rehearsals and upcoming performances when lockdown hit in March. They quickly started to explore ways in which local singers could continue singing together while finding themselves physically apart.
As Allegri Musical Director Maurice Kelly explains, “In mid-March, life as we knew it came to a complete halt! At one fell swoop, all our music events were either postponed or cancelled. Rehearsals, performances, lessons, workshops; everything, all the good stuff – gone! The music just stopped.”
Undeterred, the group took up the challenge of reimagining their provision for this new way of life. “When the initial shock slowly abated, the creative spirit began to adapt to new ways of connecting and uniting people. Now our ensembles and performances are virtual, our rehearsals, meetings and lessons have become Zoom sessions,” Maurice continues.
During lockdown, Allegri delivered two online projects with funding support from the Foundation’s Coronavirus Community Fund. The first was the Every Voice Cloud Choir, offering free online Zoom workshops led by Maurice. The intergenerational project brought together 160 singers across NI in song and workshops and focused on American composer Jacob Narverud’s upbeat song ‘Sisi Ni Moja (We Are One). Participants were invited to make individual recordings of the song, (which celebrates universal connections and shared human experiences) and a choral performance was produced.
Allegri manages Orchestra NorthWest, the region’s only symphony orchestra, and they are currently working on a similar virtual project with 80 local young players, to be released over the summer.
Funding from the Community Foundation enabled one to one voice tutorials with Maurice and music and drama classes in collaboration with the McPhillips School of Speech and Drama.
Aisling Smyth, a parent of two of the participants was full of praise for the projects: “Oisín (11) and Daimhín (8) have been involved with Allegri Kids for two years and I knew these activities would be a great experience for them. Not only did it mean they could keep their connection with Allegri during lockdown but they also got to see how amazing the internet can be outside of playing games. They loved it and it was great to see them focusing on something that was fun during a time that has been challenging for us all.”
As the next phase beyond lockdown approaches, we know life will be very different. Specifically, serious concerns are being raised about how the arts may be negatively impacted. But recent months have illustrated the importance of communities finding new opportunities to connect, continuing to demonstrate resourceful and innovative solutions, recognising that music offers much-needed healing, renewal and revitalisation.
Allegri presenting Every Voice Cloud Choir’s version of Jacob Naverud’s ‘Sisi Ni Moja’