Unable to meet for its weekly rehearsal at Lighthouse, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus has been singing loud and clear… online.
So much that chorus directors from some of the country’s top orchestral choirs have sat in for inspiration.
Since the second week of lockdown the Chorus, an Associate Artist at Lighthouse, has welcomed the likes of Simon Halsey from the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Matthew Hamilton from Hallé Orchestra, David Hill from the London Bach Choir and representatives from the BBC Symphony Chorus and the London Philharmonic to its remote rehearsals conducted via the Zoom video conferencing platform.
“It is extremely productive, incredibly useful and a real pleasure to see everyone each week,” says Gavin Carr, the BSC’s Music Director.
“We meet on Tuesday evenings at 7.15 just as we would at Lighthouse. I sit at my piano in my study and can see five banks of screens, 125 faces, and even though they are all muted they can hear me. There is a very real sense of communal endeavour – my empathy is working strongly.”
The singers listen as Gavin plays through the piece they are studying – currently the Rachmaninoff Liturgy of St John Chrysostom – before a sing-through with the recording. He then identifies one or two areas for coaching and asks singers to unmute themselves if they have questions or need clarification.
“We have a break then get together in smaller groups in break out rooms on Zoom to talk about the work and try out a few things before coming back together at the end for another sing-through. Afterwards we ‘go to the pub’ as we say and have a general free-for-all chat.
“There are a lot of positive benefits, not only the social aspect of meeting in this way, but also because it retains some structure to the week for us all. And if we’ve learned one thing during lockdown the appetite for music making is as great as ever.”
Gavin credits his friend Colin Howard, director of Dorchester Choral Society, with starting the Zoom rehearsals.
“He told me he had tried it in the first week of lockdown so the BSC agreed to give it a go. I started in week two and we’ve been going ever since. Then I mentioned it online in the Choral Directors Forum as one or two of my colleagues around the country were quite depressed about things and it has snowballed from there.
“We are doing real work in these rehearsals, the kind of leg work that has to be done to really learn a piece. Another positive aspect of all this is that singers are becoming much more self-reliant so that when we come back together again to sing – whenever that might be – every singer’s capabilities will have been rejigged and tooled up.”
Photo shows a Zoom screenshot of Gavin Carr, highlighted panel, leading a BSC rehearsal.