2020-10-10 Happy Thanksgiving, from Da Camera Singers!

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Posted on 2020-10-10
By Laura Hawley

Happy Thanksgiving, from Da Camera Singers!

Da Camera Singers, VanEs Retreat weekend 2019.  Photo: Erik Visser

New normal, new opportunities

Dear friends, families and supporters of Da Camera Singers,

Happy Thanksgiving to you! It’s October, and autumn is here. We’ve made it through the first month of the new choral season in the time of covid and I’m pleasantly surprised and more than a little bit relieved by how well things are going! Taking stock of the past seven months, I can’t help but notice how these strange times have shaped our choral activities that have brought us new opportunities for community and growth. On this Thanksgiving weekend, there are many new things to be grateful for in our choir world:

New sense of community

Throughout the spring and summer, the singers of Da Camera took the opportunity to meet virtually for some really fruitful and inspiring discussion around vision and who we are as a choir. We held small group discussions, our AGM, and a full-choir town hall meeting. We also had a lot of fun in our members’ facebook group taking the opportunity to get to know each other in ways we wouldn’t have time to do in a normal rehearsal through weekly discussion topics that were sometimes musical, but often not. This was a great opportunity for me to get to know the singers better – having had only two thirds of a season with Da Camera after being appointed artistic director in the summer of 2019. I’m sure that under normal circumstances I wouldn’t already know as much as I now know about who adores which novels, which singer revels in German music, coffee, and dogs above all else, the details of members’ hobbies and home projects, and which chorister creates brilliant nail art with intricate nail polishing techniques! It really feels to me as though we’ve grown closer as a choir family, even though we haven’t been physically together.

New routines

We have resumed rehearsals now and I’ve gone from leaving my house with my “choir bag” to leaving my house with my “choir crate” full of all the technology needed to livestream our rehearsals. We are gathering with octets in-person, rotating a roster of three different octets from week to week while the rest of the singers attend rehearsal via live stream. We start each week with a 30 minute session from a course I’m developing, thanks to the support of the Edmonton Arts Council, called “Mindfulness Based Choral Art,” and then proceed to our warm-up and rehearsal, changing locations every 30 minutes and taking a long break to go outside and have a break from the strain of singing with a mask on.

New hilarity!

I was concerned when we started this routine that the technology wouldn’t work, or that it would be too hard for those at home to enjoy the rehearsal, but as it turns out, not only has the technology been fine, the ‘zoomers’ appear to be having a riot each week! Throughout the course of these hybrid rehearsals, I often look at the screen to see smiling and laughing faces and hilarious banter in the chat. It’s been truly heart-warming for me to see this, and has given me pause to consider how this new space for fun and playfulness could be carried into a normal rehearsal setting. I’ve always believed that we can really engage our best selves and shine as musicians when we’re feeling relaxed, connected, and positive.

New protocols

Our priorities this year are flexibility, health and safety, community, and musical growth. Some singers are comfortable singing in small groups, others prefer to participate virtually only at this stage for various reasons, and we’ve also built into our approach a plan to accommodate as much flexibility as possible for anyone who needs it. The important thing is that we’re still together, still making music, and are feeling so grateful to be able to sing together again, even if it’s quite different from how we’ve done things before. We’re still able to pursue excellence and grow as individuals and as an ensemble, but our goals are different. After so many months of not being able to gather, it’s wonderful to give ourselves the gift of singing great repertoire together, building our skills, and being as flexible as we can with any goals outside of those activities.

New performance ideas

We’re delighted to be collaborating with our home space, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, this season and look forward to presenting a service of Evensong on Sunday November 1st for All Saints’ Day. Do keep an eye on our website and social media for more information on how to attend this event either virtually or as part of a limited-capacity seating reservation. We’ll also be collaborating with Holy Trinity’s music ministry and other community choirs for an Advent offering.

New fundraising initiatives

Meanwhile, we’ll also be participating in Choir Alberta’s Run for Music! Like all arts organizations, Da Camera has been hit hard financially by the pandemic. The Run for Music is a fantastic fundraiser that supports so many things at once; our excellent provincial choral federation, our choir, our community, and our physical health! We have a team signed up to complete a physically-distanced 5k walk/run or 10k run on the morning of October 17th. Some will participate in the group event at Victoria Park, while others will undertake their own solo walk or run. Please help us with our fundraising efforts by donating here!

Dr. Chester L. Alwes

New opportunities for guest speakers and audience connections

While we’re not able to present our normal concerts for the foreseeable future, Da Camera has planned a full-choir gathering once per month for us to all meet together with a guest speaker.

Our upcoming speaker, Dr Chester L. Alwes, joins us on November 2nd, and we’d like to invite you, our audience members and supporters, to join us as our guests!

Click here to register for the Virtual Session with Chester L. Alwes on Monday November 2nd at 7:00MST.

Dr. Chester L. Alwes is Professor Emeritus of Choral Music and Music Education at the University of Illinois School of Music, and author of A History of Western Choral Music, published by Oxford University Press.  I reached out to Dr. Alwes after finding an article he wrote for Choral Journal in 1995 about Hindemith’s Six Chansons as we were rehearsing this wonderful work in preparation for our May concert (which of course was cancelled) and we are very much looking forward to having him visit us virtually, to speak with us about Hindemith’s mini masterpieces, as he calls them.

Matthew Larkin

Our first guest speaker was Ottawa-based organist, conductor, and composer Matthew Larkin, on October 5th. Matthew spoke with us about the musical tradition of the Anglican Church, the service of Evensong, and the repertoire we’re working on for our own upcoming Evensong service. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Larkin has shared his vast musical knowledge widely by offering a series he has created, curated, produced, and performed called “Geistmusik,” which you can view here. At the time of writing this, he has offered 195 lecture recital style virtual performances in this series.  Our session was filled with wonderful historical anecdotes, fascinating exploration of the repertoire, and Matthew’s passion for history and music inspired us all and deeply enriched our relationship with the music we are exploring!

Laura Hawley

Wishing you and yours health, safety, and creativity in these strange times. Thank you for your ongoing support, and I hope to see you at one of our upcoming events!

Yours in song, 

Laura Hawley

Artistic Director, Da Camera Singers