Canadian Showtime Chorus: Beyond the Notes

Canadian Showtime Chorus: Beyond the Notes

2020 derailed in March when a global pandemic was declared in light of the Coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19. From gathering and travel restrictions to physical distancing, closures and gradual re-openings as advised by local health and government authorities, telecommuting and Zoom gatherings have become the new norm!

These are unprecedented times and in its 75 years of existence, Sweet Adelines International has never been in a place where such difficult decisions have had to be made. The health and safety of our membership is paramount, so all regional contests were cancelled as well as all in person educational events planned for the summer and fall of 2020. Of course, that included the cancellation of international convention in Louisville, Kentucky in October 2020. Sad but safe!

The Canadian Showtime Chorus Leadership followed suit and in keeping with local guidelines and protocols, all chorus rehearsals were suspended! Our last in person rehearsal was March 10, 2020! A date that will forever stay etched in our minds!

The chorus leadership already had a routine of constant communication via WhatsApp and the planning and strategizing was quickly kicked into high gear to plan next steps. We are fortunate to have the world’s most amazing, motivational and inspiring chorus director, Joe Connelly, navigating our ship. He works tirelessly to steer us through these rough waters. No way was he going to let our musical program take a beating and sink under the negative influence of COVID!

Technology is great and social media quickly exploded with ways to keep connected during isolation. What works for one group doesn’t necessarily work for another though, and not everyone is comfortable or even equipped with technology, so a CSC Tech Team was formed to help individuals get set-up and comfortable – no one gets left behind!! 

We often hear, “I joined the chorus for the music; I stay for the friendships”! So how do we keep the music alive, maintain our community spirit/connection and continue developing our individual skills while apart? How about one-on-one private vocal instructions (PVI) on our new contest up-tune with our director? That’s right! PRIVATE! For our director’s ears ONLY. What a great way for him to get to know all of our voices (he has only been our director for a heartbeat after all!!) and for us to get the gift of his positive and encouraging feedback to make us stronger and more confident singers.

Joe split our uptune into three assignments (a couple of pages per), piloted the program with his Fearless Leaders (a group of admin, musical and visual leaders) and then introduced the concept to the entire membership via an instructional YouTube video. Submissions started rolling in and Joe turned the feedback around in record time. Honestly, he is a machine!! Without exception, EVERYONE – once they got over the nerves of submitting a recording to their director – LOVED the experience! No one was pressured to participate – homelife, challenges from working from home and health issues all take priority and recordings will be accepted at whatever time works best for each individual member. 

From YouTube instructional videos, we moved on to Facebook Live. This was exciting – not only did we get to hear Joe’s wisdom, we got to see him live and reap the benefits of his infectious energy! He is a motivational speaker extraordinaire, and he has a quick wit too. No joke, he could be a stand-up comic!  The big difference from the YouTube video however is that we could interact with him via chat and we were also able to chat with our friends. He provided guidance and instruction on Assignment #1 (let’s call that Joe Jems), called out a few superstars, continued to encourage submissions for Assignment #1 and introduced Assignment #2 and then #3. Virtual or not, you could hear the excitement flying from keyboards all across the city!

New layers were added with every Facetime live session from that point on. Physical warm-up, vocal warm-up, admin messaging and more Joe Jems! Although this meant a handoff from one person to the next, with one Facetime live session ending and another one starting moments later, it worked and met our needs! A slow, steady and gradual introduction of technology meant less stress for our members!! 

We kept this medium going for several weeks before moving on to Zoom. A few minor hiccups to start but overall it was a great success! Each weekly session included social time, physical and vocal warmups, sectionals in separate “rooms”, visual plan review, Joe Jems and business. Important events were conducted on Zoom too: Installation of the Management Team, the Key Member of the Month (key gets passed on to the next deserving member), our AGM, our Sweet Adeline of the Year was awarded during a very special night of celebration that included a virtual scavenger hunt and we even had a new member audition - and pass - via Zoom. History in the making! CSC drank the Kool-Aid! We became Zoom-a-holics! 

We have succeeded in keeping the music and chorus connection alive. We turned our attention to the “business” during lockdown too! Some expenses may have been reduced during COVID, but we still need to supplement our income for future plans! Our clever Money-Making Coordinators came up with extremely profitable fundraisers that fattened our bank balance by thousands! Timing is everything! With garden centers being closed in the spring, we partnered with Richmond Nursery and sold hanging baskets – a win-win initiative for both sides. We then sold North Country Meats just before barbecue season started! The support of friends and family was overwhelming. Contactless pick-up and delivery by members was organized to ensure the safety of our members and supporters! Such a huge success both of these may very well become annual events for CSC! The easiest money maker of all was our bottle drive – collect and bring back once returns were accepted! Cha-ching!!

With all of that came a need to take a well-earned break! With new music in hand, we took the months of July and August off and we can hardly wait for September 1st when we resume our weekly Zoom sessions. New COVID cases are still on the rise here and no one can predict if a second wave will hit our city and surrounding areas or not, but one thing is for sure – we have the means and desire to keep the music alive be it remotely or in person. We are family and we need each other to help see us through this pandemic. We will follow the prescribed protocols and put our members’ health and safety first, all-the-while working on our own skills and keeping the chords ringing! Where words fail, music speaks!! We can do this - we are in it together. Be safe and well! Canadian Showtime ChorusBeyond the Notes!!

JD Crowe

CSC Blogger