A few years ago, the Greenbrier Valley Chorale performed a song that included these lyrics: “Thro’ all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing; It finds an echo in my soul – How can I keep from singing?”
Those words reflect the spirit of chorale members as they gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 5, for their first in-person rehearsal since Covid-19 shut them down in March of 2020, just a few days before their scheduled spring concert. Although this rehearsal was quite different from what they are accustomed to, the singers delighted in once again practicing for a Christmas concert that – if all goes well – will take place on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg.
Artistic Director Barbara Lutz has worked carefully with the board of directors to ensure that rehearsals and the performance will adhere to CDC guidelines and the recommendations of the American Choral Directors Association. The board has met almost monthly since the pandemic began to make it possible for the group to resume performing.
Although chorale members have not sung together in person in the past year and a half, they did manage to record a virtual performance of one of the songs scheduled for their cancelled concert. It was quite an undertaking. After only one Zoom practice, the singers made a video of themselves singing their part and then uploaded the files to Google Drive. Lutz was impressed that so many of the members, a number of whom are retirees, were willing and able to learn the process, which involved singing into a camera on one device while listening to an audio file of their part through another.
The circumstances that brought about the virtual performance were unfortunate, but a happy consequence was that a number of people who had moved away or for some reason stopped singing with the group were able to sing along from wherever they now live. Once all the files were in place, Kiersten White of One Woman Show Creations combined all the individual files into a video that can be found on the chorale’s website, www.greenbriervalleychorale.org.
As rewarding as the virtual experiment was, nothing beats getting together and singing in person, so the excitement was palpable as the group met in the Carnegie Hall auditorium for the first rehearsal. Special masks have been ordered that are specially designed to make singing easier. Until they arrive, the members are wearing their own masks as they sing. Rather than rehearsing on stage, Lutz has spaced the singers throughout the auditorium to allow for social distancing.
Lutz was not sure what kind of response she would get when she announced that rehearsals were starting up again. She said she expected maybe 30 people to respond out of the group that usually numbers between 45 and 50. To her amazement, 44 people signed on, including six new members.
“That turnout says to me that the members feel comfortable with the protocols we have put in place. I was just thrilled so many came,” Lutz said.
Because of the recent surge of the Delta variant, rehearsals started a month later than usual, and to keep within safety guidelines, rehearsals are only lasting an hour and a half instead of the usual two hours. For those reasons, Lutz has planned a Christmas program that will include familiar favorites from past concerts, but there also will be some wonderful new additions.
“It might not be as polished as our usual concerts, but the important thing is just to get together and sing,” Lutz said. “We have a passion to once again be the Greenbrier Valley Chorale.”