A mere 4 weeks ago life was almost normal, choir was going on and we were busily rehearsing for wonderful concerts coming up in the diary. Then on March 15th we all received the notice, choir was cancelled – closed for the foreseeable future – and our lovely close, warm, connected, uplifting social and musical group was gone, just like that, and we were all thrust into a isolation and staying safe at home. LPC soprano Jane Hanson talks about how choir members may cope in this time.
Singing in isolation
I’m sure you know that singing in a choir has huge benefits for us all, beyond the artistic and musical. Singing has the power to make us feel calmer, happier and uplifted as well as having a direct and measurable impact on our mental and physical well-being, it also connects us more quickly and more powerfully than any other human activity so we were going to really miss our choral friends as well as our singing.
But more importantly right now, science shows that our respiratory and circulatory systems all improve through singing and that if we sing for at least an hour, our immune system measurably increases – so we definitely need to keep singing!
It’s difficult to sing in isolation – unless you’re a soloist of course – but as we’ve all seen recently, that hasn’t stopped people at all. The clips from Italy of people singing from their balconies was one of the most uplifting and heartening outcomes of the social isolation people were struggling with. They may be be stuck at home but they still want to sing and, as we saw, it was such an effective and connecting thing to do.
Whilst we can’t all sing from our balconies and front doors on a regular basis, choir leaders, technicians and singers have stepped up and we now have an impressive flourishing of offerings online to help us keep singing and keep connected in a choral kind of way. I know it’s not the same as gathering with your friends, singing great music and going to the pub, but in the dearth of that we’ve now at least been presented with a wide array of alternatives ways we can still sing together.
Gareth Malone stepped up in days, partnering with Decca to create The Great British Home Chorus where we can all learn, sing along and join in. I haven’t sung You are my Sunshine for years, but given that we could all do a bit more of that right now I decided to have a go and join in, unexpectedly discovering that it was quite fun! I might even have a go at learning the alto line or uploading myself singing! (Don’t listen Neville or I’ll be out of the LPC)
There are countless other online choirs now too, Eric Whittaker, Voces 8, Stay at Home Choir, The Big Virtual Sing, Pub Choirs, Rock Choirs, Stay in and Sing, Covid Choirs (yes really) and Global Song Circle are just a few, so in fact we could all be learning news songs and singing along for most of the day now. What’s more they’re great for practising singing techniques and learning technology as many of them are teaching things like how to record and upload ourselves singing. Most importantly I think, they keep us connected, to each other and singing.
Pub Choirs (Photo: Jacob Morrison)
If this online idea isn’t for you then our unexpected choir holiday and home isolation could be a perfect time for catching up on countless choral classics you never get time to listen to or learn – dip in to your own collections or go online to listen. Why not get your score out and sing along too and yes tenors, of course you sing the solo parts!
Staying in tune
We’ve also seen many marvellous, generous and free musical offerings being made during the last few weeks from musicians and artists who can no longer perform live. So now, not only can we get to sing with all kinds of choirs for free online, but we can also sit on our sofas with a cup of tea or glass of wine and watch concerts from a wide range of world class orchestras, including our own wonderful LPO. There are also operas, ballets, theatre and musicals being shown from top international houses on an almost daily basis so it’s a great time to catch up on culture.
We know this is an unprecedented time of challenge and crisis, a time we particularly need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. But we are also in a time where technology is helping us all hugely to keep connected so not only can we stay home and stay safe right now, but we can also stay home, stay connected and stay singing – which is a great and healthy thing to do.
We are also seeing incredible thoughtfulness, kindness, care, support and generosity from so many others too – from our amazing NHS and their choral singers to our great music and cultural institutions, so we applaud and thank them all for that.
(On a final note, of course remember, this will all pass and we will be back at choir in the future so hang on to that thought and use and enjoy this unexpected extra time in your lives as best as you can.)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra has launched LPOnline. A place where digital activities will be uploaded to connect with you over the coming weeks through the exceptional power of music.