Surviving A Pandemic 101!

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Who knew in March 2020 that COVID would raise havoc for months - not only weeks? Who knew that Ottawa would become a hot spot for cases and would keep us apart until year end and beyond? Who knew Zoom would become second nature and a lifeline? Let me try to paint a picture of how Canadian Showtime Chorus (CSC) has not only survived but thrived!

CSC is big on acronyms -Tuesday night rehearsals are now referred to as TNL, short for Tuesday Night Live!

Every rehearsal starts with a fun physical warmup by one of the PWTMs (physical warmup team member). Once we catch our breath, we move on to vocal warmups by our FADs (Fabulous Assistant Directors), teaching and Private Voice Instructions (PVI) under glass by Joe, muted singalongs of all repertoire songs, musical and visual breakout rooms for continued instruction and learning and finally an exciting News, Biz (business) and Info Segment by a cast of thousands to end the night.

Much behind the scenes work is involved in making each night a success but none of this would be possible without the dynamic duo of Nancy – our esteemed Team Coordinator - and her husband Jim Mantle who act as grand central station and technical hub for all TNL sessions. Jim is our Master Controller and takes care of assigning us to breakout rooms throughout the evening, spotlights speakers and various chorus members during singalongs and plays tracks and videos on demand! This allows Nancy to be a singer and not be distracted or encumbered until Biz time! We appreciate Jim and Nancy so much that a few months ago they were jointly awarded the Key Member of the Month award and Jim proudly wore the “Key” on a chain at every rehearsal for four weeks running! He’s not a member so this breaks protocol and is not “normal” but nothing about 2020 is “normal” – he is deserving and important to us – rules are sometimes made to be broken! Thanks for all that you do Jim and Nancy!

Joe leads the chorus’s musical program with vision and passion. We may be separated by a border at the moment, but his heart is 100% in Ottawa with CSC and he works tirelessly to enrich and continue our musical journey. He consults with our coaches and lines up sessions for the short and long term. A few of our VD7 (visual design team x 7 members) spent a day with the world-renown Erin Howden to learn a new visual plan for our new uptune. Ground- breaking! More recently, Tim Waurick was “in the house” for a couple of days. He spent two full days providing 20-minute PVIs to chorus members. Just Tim and the member on Zoom; a recorded session so that each can revisit and continue their learning from his positive critique and personalized pearls of wisdom. What a gift to our members from the chorus! On Tuesday night Tim attended our TNL regular session and provided a few PVIs under glass. This proved to be an extremely positive experience for both those receiving the PVI and all members who got to watch, listen and hear the difference in each voice once they applied the technique provided by Tim. We are so lucky to have Tim as part of family!

This brings me to the most exciting and uplifting experience since lockdown started in March! For the last couple of years, we have opened our membership for a 6-week period to anyone who wanted to experience a-cappela 4-part harmony singing without a long-term commitment. They joined to learn holiday songs and perform at our gala show in December. Obviously, given current gathering restrictions, this wasn’t doable this year, but Joe came forward with a brilliant idea. Why not create a Virtual Holiday Singing Greeting Card Extravaganza! The invitation was extended to our Sweet Adeline community and the general public in the Ottawa area. A virtual opportunity to join Canadian Showtime Chorus for 6-weeks to learn four (4) holiday songs with one being featured on our Holiday Virtual Greeting card. The response was overwhelming. Over 100 registered and some 60 stuck with it! We had interest from Ottawa and surrounding area, the Greater Toronto Area, the United States, Australia and the Philippines! That right there is the COVID silver lining – travel to rehearsal becomes a non-issue! The Holiday Chorus was so engaged – so enthusiastic – so giving and willing – we forgot they were not permanently ours! TNLs have been great but there was a new source of energy and excitement at our sessions that kept most of us awake well past the end of our Zoom gatherings each Tuesday! Truly a magical experience and a beautiful showing of community spirit.

Last night we had an amazing final gathering with our holiday chorus siblings. With Zoom squares festively decorated, we played, we shared, we snacked, we toasted and yes, we shed a few tears! A few toasts were shared but the most beautiful came from Joe as he sang “I’ll be home for Christmas ... if only in my dreams!” We can’t be together, but Joe lives in our hearts and we live in his. Last time Joe was with us was in March and little did we know that it would be the last time we would see him in person in 2020. He said last night “Had I known; I would have made sure to hug every single one of you!” That day will come Joe, and we will be lined up to collect!

And after all that fun came the grand finale! Master Controller Jim had our Virtual Holiday Singing Greeting Card queued up waiting for Joe to give the signal! A production by Tim Waurick and Dave Ammirata. What a nice surprise to have both Tim and Dave join us for the big reveal! Many hours of effort that culminated in a superb video that we can’t wait to share. When viewing, please take the time to read the credits as we have SO many inhouse and external people to thank for not only this project but for their ongoing support, applause and generosity of spirit and light.

It takes a village and that, my friends, is how we are surviving this pandemic!!

JD Crowe CSC Blogger