2020 - A new and different way to sing for Sing and Tonic

2020 - A different way to sing for Sing and Tonic!

Life is always about new challenges and this year has seen many of them, especially for singers, musicians and those working in the Arts.

On Monday, March 16th, 2020, when I was listening to the Downing Street announcement that all community group activities needed to be stopped immediately due to COVID 19, I went in to overdrive trying to cancel 4 rehearsal venues and around 120 singers.

My priority was to stop people turning up to their usual sessions and then maintain contact and see where I could go from there.

Thank goodness for technology - I used my Facebook page, set up What’s App groups, emailed everyone I could, text messaged or telephoned the remainder of singers and have put up regular Newsletters in the members area of my website.

I had already been reading from other choir leaders around the world, in various forums, about how they were using technology to run rehearsals online - all with various pros and cons!

So, I stepped in to the unkown and decided to trial some sessions myself and see what could be achieved for Sing and Tonic. A few brave singers had their arms twisted to attend the trial sessions where I found what did and didn’t work. Sadly the main thing is because of the time delay you cannot sing together live over the internet.

However, it became clear that the singers did still want to meet, learn new songs, see their friends and still feel part of the Sing and Tonic community. So, ZOOM it was to be!!

I drew up a guide of how to join the sessions and was delighted to see that people appeared on my computer, which now lives on top of my piano. After a few small glitches they join the sessions with ease.

The delight they get from seeing each other on screen each week is brilliant to see. They understand that when they sing they can only hear me, my backing/rehearsals tracks and the piano but as one singer said “I’ve always wanted to sing a duet with you Sarah and now I have”!

They do talk to each other and catch up on their news in between the songs etc. … actually sometimes you can’t stop them, which is all quite normal for one of our sessions.

It soon became apparent that regular social eveings for each of the 4 groups would also be a good idea. We do those every 6 weeks with a quiz from me and the singers sharing stories, poems, jokes, recipes, photos, pets, hidden musical talents and so much more. I can honestly say I have learnt a huge amount about them and we have all been made very welcome in each others homes via this technology.

I have been very touched with comments from some of the online singers. I always knew that singing was about far more than that, good for you in so many ways, and this pandemic seems to have added another dimension to it -

“thank you so much for bringing the joy of singing into our lives and homes”

“ if I'm honest it bought me a level of joy and relaxation that a normal session would bring me which I wasn't expecting!”

"Great way to break up the day and inject some positivity”

I have managed to retain about 50% of the singers online as ZOOM and technology is not for everyone, which I quite understand.

Virtual choir videos was the next thing to master … my skills and patience were really tested with this. Again the trial group bravely sent me their recordings and so confidence grew in them and myself that we could do this.

I am now about to do their 3rd virtual recording for Christmas. We would normally be performing at 3 or 4 events and we always sing for a Charity. So, this year we will do a virtual video sing for Mental Health UK. I will post it on both my Facebook and YouTube pages and there is a donate button for the charity on the Facebook video so please do have a look and donate if you are able to. Here the links to those pages -

I have not been able to hold a face to face rehearsal since early March, 2020, and I really hope that by next April, 2021, maybe some sessions can start again in the correct socially distanced way in bigger venues, with face masks, hand santiser and cleaning equipment for me as well as the usual musical equipment!!

I see more challenges ahead but hopefully when we can all safely get together again the noise of their chatter and singing will truely be a joy to hear!

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