Whitehorse Community choir is persevering, despite making changes due to pandemic restrictions

It’s been a complicated year for Whitehorse Community Choir. Around a year ago, they went from regularly scheduled full rehearsals to absolutely nothing, and had no idea when or how they’d be able to return. Neither the 2020 spring or winter shows happened.

“You don’t know what’s going happen,” said Barbara Chamberlain, the choir’s conductor and artistic director. “Then you start to plan for the fall, but there are a lot of unknowns.”

As it became clearer that this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, the members of the choir decided to adapt, and find creative new ways to rehearse and perform. Chamberlain said it was tough to have to scrap last year’s shows they had already put so much work into, and feeling optimistic about the future was another challenge. Though adapting a performance by a large vocal ensemble like Whitehorse Community Choir to an online format is much different than with a solo artist or small band, Chamberlain and the singers were determined to find a way to present their music virtually.

In September, the singers started practicing from a distance, employing some interesting methods to do so. They held practices over Zoom, with each singer at home. The altos and tenors practiced separately from the sopranos and basses because of the size of the group. The singers also used sheet music and YouTube videos to learn their own parts, and recorded themselves singing with cellphones and other devices. The singers then sent Chamberlain their recordings, and Chamberlain put them together into full-choir recordings.

“Every one of those 42 tracks takes at least an hour to edit so we’re all saying the same thing at the same time,” said Chamberlain. “It was a little overwhelming.”
In addition to being an awful lot of work, Chamberlain said the singers felt they were missing out on the social community aspect that is such a huge part of the choir.

“There’s a big social aspect to the choir,” she said with a laugh. “Really, I have to get them to shut up a lot.”
Another way the choir managed to create some recorded content was by showing up at the arts centre in smaller groups and singing six feet apart while wearing masks. Being recorded and filmed. When the four groups were finished, Chamberlain edited and mixed the audio, and the choir’s videographer, Jessica Hall, put the visual content together. This method worked better, but because there weren’t enough headphones to go around, they had to use monitors, the sound from which was picked up in the background of the recordings and had to be edited out.

Now, the choir is finally able to start putting on live shows again. On April 30 and May 1, they will be presenting Look on the Bright Side!, a set of shows at the Yukon Arts Centre which will also be streamed online. For these shows, the choir will be accompanied by pianist Barry Kitchen. Both shows start at 8 p.m., and tickets can be purchased for $20 at yukontickets.com. Those who choose to watch the livestream can pay whatever they decide.

Chamberlain said all the singers are extremely excited to finally be able to perform live again, and get the release that singing and performing give them.
“The thing about singing is that it releases endorphins and makes everyone happy,” she said. “Unless they’re on the wrong note, maybe.” 

Whitehorse Community Choir Goes Virtual