#returntosinging – First United Church Adult Choir


First United Church Adult Choir rehearses in the church hall (November 2020)

It comes as a welcome opportunity to respond to the NSCF’s request to tell the story of our choir’s journey through the pandemic. We are happy to share the experience of First United Church Choir in Truro under the direction of Minister of Music, Chris Bowman. He has found continuous ways of keeping the choir together since the beginning of this pandemic, changing the structure as circumstances evolved.

From early April until June Chris organized Zoom Meetings for the choir every two weeks. Initially we chatted and ended with a song, rendered while on ‘Mute’, and led by Chris accompanying us on piano. This morphed into Zoom practices. Singers were sent the score via e-mail, practiced at home, sang ‘muted’ together on Zoom, with Chris again conducting and playing piano. A further evolution took us from this Zoom practice to “Project Choir–antine”, recording ourselves individually and sending the recordings to Chris. He then stitched them all together into an anthem of all our voices. This enabled the Choir to be part of the virtual service on Sunday morning. (Each of these recordings is available on youtube.com).

When congregations were permitted to gather, following strict pandemic rules, choir rehearsals were also permitted. Chris implemented distancing, masking, hand washing and cleaning protocols. He also ordered ‘singers masks’ for all who wanted. Scores were sent out via e-mail. So now, we gathered at the church for in—person rehearsals. Our live performances were recorded at the end of each rehearsal and presented on screen during the now in-person Sunday Services. All this happened due to Chris’s initiative, long hours and his determination to provide an ongoing music experience for choir and congregation alike. To quote Chris himself, in the midst of all this “comes the many challenges, and yet celebrations, that technology has afforded us.”

First United Church Adult Choir rehearses in the sanctuary  (December 2020)

As you will see from the representative testimonials below, choir members are very supportive and appreciative of this opportunity to make music together throughout the pandemic.

“In the past year, being a musician and elementary music teacher has been hard. I have been singing in choirs since I was in the first grade and when COVID began in March, all in-person group singing was stripped away. My mental health suffered due to the lack of group music-making and interaction with others. When we were able to start meeting in person it was a game changer. I’m grateful to be living in Nova Scotia where we have been able to come together to make music safely again.” – Danielle, soprano

“I am grateful for the opportunity to keep my voice in working order. I suspect that had we not been singing together and exercising our vocal chords for the duration of the pandemic, some of us might well have stopped singing for good.” – Alison, soprano

“We all appreciate the hours Chris has put into organizing each individual service, especially when we all know how frustrating technology can be.” – Martha, soprano

“The choir includes many singers who have been together for over 30 years. We are a faithful group, dedicated to excellence and enjoy the amazing leadership and teaching of Chris. Despite the pandemic challenges … we have managed to record and perform a number of high quality anthems for church services in 2020/2021. Whilst not a perfect world, we attend rehearsal dedicated to quality singing and the importance of being the family that we are, socializing from 6 feet, laughing at mistakes, welcoming new members who want a vocal connection, and the teamwork of both singing and disinfecting the pews/chairs/piano afterwards. Our being together as a family is so important to us and “the choir” is a huge part of our lives. We will not let the pandemic separate us from each other and the joy of singing and making music to share with our faith family”. – Lynn and Malcolm, alto and tenor

“Going to choir practice is a high point of my week. The joy of making music together, the fellowship we enjoy when we sing with people who have become friends, and the happiness this sing creates, are all such important results. The endorphins that are released during our practices ensure that (to quote a hymn we have been singing) “I have no complaints whatsoever”. – Debbie, soprano