Lynn Nowak special to the leader
When choral music everywhere came to a grinding halt in March 2020, the board of directors of the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson …
When choral music everywhere came to a grinding halt in March 2020, the board of directors of the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County canceled its April concerts, thinking that perhaps they could be rescheduled for summer, or at least that a normal fall season would follow. But the performing arts, particularly choirs, were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inching back toward “normal,” local groups are finding their way. Little did the chorus’s directors foresee in early 2020 that their first official concerts after the forced hiatus wouldn’t materialize until now.
At the height of the pandemic, singing was considered to be one of the riskiest activities for the spread of the virus.
“The fact that we are coming together again is an occasion well worth celebrating,” said Community Chorus director Sarah Moran.
“The theme of our concert, ‘We Rise Again,’ is our statement to the world that the last two and a half years have not broken us,” Moran added. “Our love of music, singing, and community have outlived the loneliness and fear of the last few years and we are overjoyed to be performing together again.”
A program that celebrates singing is set for two concerts, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St., Port Townsend; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way, Chimacum.
Still mindful of protecting themselves and others, the singers will be masked in the concert venues, and are asking audience members to mask and show proof of vaccination.
Returning to a choir setting has presented challenges. Some singers were reluctant to return — period — because of health concerns and potential COVID exposure. Others haven’t wanted to wear masks while singing.
Masks are, indeed, an obstacle, but most singers say that wearing them is infinitely better than not singing.
“I have been overjoyed to see how many members have chosen to return and have not been daunted by health worries or the discomfort of masking,” Moran said.
Chorus board president Linda Atkins said for her, the biggest challenge has been balancing the desire to sing while assuring a high level of safety for the health and wellbeing of singers, their families, and the community.
During the past couple of years, the chorus has had to rethink ways of engaging with its membership. Online Zoom sessions early on proved to be a good way of socializing with people and relieving some of the feelings of pandemic isolation, but an ineffective way of singing together. In summer 2021, outdoor gatherings of singalong music and reviewing choral scores from past seasons were an attempt to get back to the group experience. During the holiday season last year, singers turned out in bigger numbers for an afternoon of Christmas caroling.
“We learned that a big part of participating in the chorus is looking forward to performing the music for the community,” said chorus board president Linda Atkins. “That became very clear when we held several sessions for members to continue singing – but we just couldn’t get up much enthusiasm since we weren’t preparing for a performance. The singalongs (and pre-season sessions) we did this summer were more satisfying.”
The core group in the chorus this fall is comprised of a small band of dedicated singers determined to make music together again.
For a few numbers, they’ll be getting some help from the Wild Rose Chorale, who appears on the program as a special guest. The now 11-voice ensemble joins the chorus for three songs and also presents a set of its own a cappella music complementing the “We Rise Again” theme.
“It’s always fun to collaborate,” said Leslie Lewis, director of the Wild Rose Chorale, explaining that people like the variety of texture that different groups bring to a program.
“While we are two separate
choral organizations, Wild Rose and the Community Chorus are like siblings or cousins. So many of us have sung in both groups at one time or another over the years and it’s good to lend our support when we can.”
Wild Rose and another choral group, Rainshadow, made their way back to performing fairly early.
“Now that the chorus is up and running again, we are celebrating the full return of choral music in Port Townsend,” Lewis added.
In keeping with this celebration of singing, audiences will hear songs such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “We Are the Music-makers,” “How Can I Keep from Singing,” and “Why We Sing.”
Also included on the program are a couple of Aaron Copland favorites and even “The Rainbow Connection” from the “Muppet Movie.”
Moran said she purposefully chose uplifting music for this program.
“I wanted songs that generate a sense of unity against great odds, such as ‘We Rise Again’ and pieces that celebrate our mutual journey as humans. I think the lyrics ‘Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah. La, la, la, la, life goes on,’ are probably some of my favorites in the program because, no matter what happens, life does indeed go on.”
One of Atkins’ favorites is “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” because she said it holds a personal place in her life.
“I love having an opportunity to perform it with this resilient group of singers,” she said.
“As a Wild Rose member, it’s fun to share our music with a wider audience,” Lewis noted. “As a chorus member, honestly, it just feels good to sing again.”
Moran is happy to partner with the Wild Rose Chorale.
“Having them join us has provided the boost we needed to really get this program in shape. I thank Leslie Lewis for all of her assistance both as a singer and coordinator.”
Moran also credits Atkins, whom she called “the best cheerleader our group could ever hope for,” and the rest of the chorus board: Jonathan Stafford, who helped prepare singers in bonus rehearsals; piano accompanist Liz Hopkins; and community patrons, without whom the concerts would not be possible.
Atkins said that preparing an inspirational program and singing to friends, family and the community are what motivates these choristers.
“It really feels like we are coming back to life,” Atkins said.
Concert tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com, or at the door for a suggested $15 donation. For more information, call 360-643-3345 or visit ptchorus.org.