OPERATING A CHOIR DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
FRIDAY 21 08 20
I f you had asked me at the start of the year, "Laura, what are your plans for Serotonin this year?", I would have told you about the gigs we already had lined up and the competitions we had entered into, the exciting rehearsal plans & ideas the music team had and the growth & expansion of the choir the executive team had spent hours strategising. If you had told me we would instead have to flip everything we know about running a choir on its head and not practice together
together for four months I would have laughed and shrugged it off with a, "yeah right, as if a choir can still operate without actually singing together". Little did I (or anyone for that matter) know, this crazy thought would turn into a reality thanks to COVID-19 making its way around the world and changing all aspects of life as we knew it.
Now, I know what you're thinking: how does a choir continue to operate if nobody is allowed to meet or sing together... surely that's not possible?! I'm here to tell you that with a bit of creativity and technology, running a choir during a global pandemic is possible.
Being in a choir doesn’t just mean we sing all the time – which you can read in Even’s blog about what it is like to be in an a cappella choir – and there are a lot of aspects that go into producing a unified, strong and healthy sound as singers. Although all our plans for the year had been thrown out the window (quite literally), it was important for us to keep everyone meeting weekly even if we couldn’t sing together and find the most effective ways to achieve our goals through online platforms. For us, it was important to maintain the strong community we have within Serotonin and social aspect, our high quality sound and musicality and our interaction with the greater community through our events and performances. Thanks to Zoom, we were able to do this and Virtu-Tonin was born!
to teach and enhance our member’s music and technical knowledge by creating and running weekly workshops which focussed on both technical and physical aspects of music and singing. For example, our amazing Ruby organised five weeks of interactive music theory workshops whilst other members of the music team focussed on breathing workshops, vocal health and the importance of warming up and some techniques to do so.
As any musician would know, there is so much more to the art of singing than just singing. There’s the aspects of musicality and technicality to learn and understand to ensure a healthy sound is being produced. This is the same with any art, skill or sport – for example (and I’m no sports woman let’s keep in mind), to be able to kick a football into a goal, the player has to think about the angle and pathway of movement they will move their leg at to avoid injury and hit the ball in the right direction, the precise amount of force used to propel the ball effectively towards and into the goal, pick the exact moment to take that swing, et cetera, et cetera. We decided to use this time of not being able to sing together t
After a month of workshops, we decided to incorporate some singing into our online rehearsals to boost morale and change things up, running warm ups with everyone except the person running the rehearsal muted to beat the avoidable lag of everyone singing at once and then moving on to workshopping our current repertoire the same way. This proved to be highly effective as we were able to go further in depth with dynamic plans, learning notes and even emotive plans for each part of every song before breaking into sections and working on section specific notes and having a sing.
However, we discovered that there are only so many workshops you can run and times you can sing repertoire without hearing anyone’s voice except your own before things become repetitive and there is no further way to excel without singing and workshopping in person. Thankfully COVID restrictions have relaxed enough in Queensland and the university has given us the go ahead to rehearse in person off-campus so we have secured a venue to rehearse together and we actually had our first rehearsal.
rehearsal all together last week! This was exceptionally exciting and proved to be incredibly productive, it is amazing what some time away from everyone can do when you finally get to see each other (whilst being COVID safe, of course)!
Throughout the Virtu-Tonin experience, we were able to have some fun and get creative by participating in events! We created two box videos which you can find on our YouTube and social media pages – True Colours and Accidentally In Love – which were for university events and even ended up in Chengdu for their virtual version of the 2020 Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival! We even used this time off to totally re-design our website, design merchandise (keep an eye-out!) and plan future events to keep our members engaged and enjoying the Serotonin we have all come to know and love in different ways.
It is safe to say that this year is not what I had envisioned for my last year as President of the most incredible club. Nonetheless, I am incredibly proud of how quickly we as an entire team were able to adapt to changes and complications as they were thrown at us and all we have achieved in place of everything we had planned. I could not have been surrounded by more supportive and creative people during this challenging time and I am forever
grateful to have experienced this with you all – not just my team or choir but my friends. As such, I’d like to say two huge thank you-s to firstly, the Executive and Music Team for your quick thinking, organisation and execution skills when it came to pulling such dramatic changes off in such a short time. The planning and work that went into making Virtu-Tonin and our box videos a reality was insane and would not have been possible without you guys. My second thank you goes to to all the members of Serotonin who were so supportive of Virtu-Tonin and continued to show up to rehearsal every week & participate in all our events at short notice & with positive attitudes over the past four months – you guys rock!
As you can see, although not ideal, operating a choir during a Global Pandemic (or virtually, for that matter) is totally possible and incredibly rewarding - so if you’re up for a bit of challenge, why not!