‘We’re back, baby’: Community choirs singing again after pause of more than 2 years

As she sat next to members of the Cornwall Community Choir – minutes before their first rehearsal in two and a half years – Johanne Gass was having a hard time composing.

“I hope I can keep it together,” she said. “I feel very emotional and happy, finally getting back together.”

The last time the group sang together was March 2020. They were preparing for a concert at a retirement home near the River Clyde, PEI.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The show has been cancelled. The choir stopped singing.

What follows is two and a half years of ever-changing gathering limits, mask rules, and the number of COVID-19 cases that don’t leave many loopholes for choirs to rehearse or perform.

Some PEI community choirs, including the one in Cornwall, have suspended altogether.

Johanne Gass, a member of the Cornwall Community Choir, said she felt emotional singing with the group for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down rehearsals. (Steve Bruce / CBC)

“I was lost. It was like, ‘What do we do? How are we going to use our time?'” Gass said. “But I do understand. It’s an older group, and nobody wants to get sick. No one wants to put anyone in danger.”

‘Common sense’

But with the launch of COVID-19 boosters on PEI, and most of the restrictions gone, choir organizers decided now was the time to get back to singing.

Director of Public Health Dr Heather Morrison “did it so we could and weren’t too worried”, said Nancy Jack, an organizer and member of the Cornwall Community Choir. “We’re careful with our own health and feel pretty good about it.”

“I feel a lot of joy,” Gass added. “It’s time to relive our lives.”

Some choirs have continued to sing and perform in some capacity over the past two years, but it hasn’t been easy.

Margot Rejskind directs several choirs on PEI While they’ve continued to practice and perform at a number of roles over the past two years, she says it’s been challenging to deal with restrictions and face covering rules. change. (Steve Bruce / CBC)

“My choirs were active quite early in the pandemic, but we were very far apart,” said Margot Rejskind, who directs several other Island groups. together.

“We were wearing masks. In some cases…we could only have 50 people in the audience, and they took up an entire church, and we took up the entire front of the church because of them. I have to stay six feet apart.”

We can have a full audience again. We don’t have to count them. We don’t need to get their contact information. They can just come and enjoy.– Margot Rejskind

When she starts training sessions in the fall, Rejskind says there’s “more of a sense of normalcy.”

“Nobody likes singing in a mask. So that’s an option now,” she said. “We can again have a full audience. We don’t need to count them. We don’t need to get their contact information. They can come and enjoy.

“So this is feeling like ‘We’re back, honey!'”

Organizers of Cornwall’s Community Choir say they have not felt comfortable practicing until now, especially as many of the members are older and may be more susceptible to COVID-19. (Steve Bruce / CBC)

Rejskind said she is well aware there is still a chance that COVID-19 will derail some of their rehearsal and performance plans, and that mandatory masking could return at some point.

“But I guess what I’ve personally learned is to try not to sweat the little things. What are we doing? We come together to sing. And when it works well, we come together with together to sing and share it with the audience. And if we can only do some of it, that’s okay. And if we can do it all, that’s great.”

Members of the Cornwall Community Choir are taking a similar approach. They are scheduled to perform at nursing and retirement homes this fall.

“Oh, you have to have hope, and I think we will,” Gass said. “When you see how much the seniors love it and how much they respond to it, it’s a really good feeling.”

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