“There is no safe way for singers to rehearse together until there is a COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Lucinda Halstead, president of the Performing Arts Medical Association and medical director of the department of otolaryngology at the University of South Carolina.
In a recent briefing, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated much of the same advice citing several outbreaks among choirs and singing around the world. While a report from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is under development, for the music sector, the risk remains very real.
This news has hit the almost 30,000 organized choirs across Canada and their tens of thousand member singers hard. And while many businesses slowly prepare to re-open, choirs and other arts organizations are finding themselves still on the sidelines and looking for new ways to connect between themselves and their audience.
One organization finding a way is Vancouver’s longest-running Gospel choir, the Universal Gospel Choir (UGC). While forced to shut its doors in mid-March and the rehearsal hall has remained empty and several events cancelled, the choir has been meeting virtually with its 80 member contingent from across the Lower Mainland tuning in to weekly zoom rehearsals.
“Not even a pandemic can stop us,” says UGC’s music director Lonnie Delisle. “I think we could all use a little extra hope right now.”
That hope comes in the form of Midst of the Storm, a free virtual concert with recorded highlights from previous shows, including Black History Month: A Gospel Celebration with Terrance Kelly, and 2018’s UGC Live at the Orpheum Theatre.
Featuring special guest appearances, unreleased virtual choir videos, small ensemble performances, live interviews and more, organizers hope the “thought-provoking and energetic concert will strike a chord with audiences during this time of injustice and unrest.”