• Sarah Kaufold

Blessed are the singers who mourn...

As we face an uncertain future in the ever changing trajectory of COVID-19, choral musicians are exhibiting substantial resolve and exploring different avenues to continue choir with an innovative spirit. In just a few short days, I have seen the organizing of virtual choirs of newly composed works, the attempts at online Zoom rehearsals, and a renaissance of witty and fresh ideas for "choir" in the time of social distancing. But, we have missed a very important step in this process: mourning the loss of the choral experience. We need to give voice to the significant grief that many choral singers are feeling right now as possibilities of choral singing slip further and further away with each passing day. Therefore, it is time for a Requiem for the Choral Ensemble so that our singers can be allowed to grieve.

We gravitate to choirs for a number of different reasons: perhaps we feel more confident singing among others or we enjoy the rewarding feeling of working toward a common goal. Yet, I imagine that choir serves as an avenue to connection that is not as easily traversed by some of us. The introvert or socially unsure are equally welcomed into the choir fold and the opportunity to connect with others through singing together is an easy entre.

Blessed are the singers who mourn the loss of social connection that is not as easily gained…

We operate within a current societal norm where only “the best” singers are revered (due to the decline of community singing and the rise of TV talent shows). Thus, sharing your own voice with the world can be a vulnerable and frightening endeavor. But, singing with others within a healthy choir experience instills courage, confidence, and community. Through our vulnerability while singing, we create a deeper connection to the singers around us and, subsequently, trust is allowed to flourish across the choir. We breathe as one. Through singing together on a regular basis, we have bared our souls and shared something meaningful and sacred. We may even become like family where singers support one another and deeply care for each other.

Blessed are the singers who grieve the temporary loss of their choral family…

There is an intangible aspect to choral singing that can only being experienced while singing in close proximity to others. It is the physical feeling that happens when the sound of your voice is infused in the sound of the voices around you. When intonation and balance among the singers is achieved, there is an indefinable physical response the singers’ experience. It feels akin to an intense vibration or a vibrancy of the breath in and around your head that seems to transfer between the singers and magnify as our voices combine. Is it the excitement of molecules between the singers that creates this physical sensation? Nevertheless, it is experiencing the sound as living, breathing and interwoven with those singing around you that I mourn the most.

Blessed are the singers who lament the loss of the good feeling of sound transference…

These next weeks or months of social distancing will test us as choral singers and curators of choral communities beyond our limits, but we will sing together again. The most difficult aspect to absorb is the uncertainty and lack of an expected end to the isolation. In order for us to endure right now, it is important to continue to see this situation as a time for hope. However, in order to for us to begin to heal, we also should allow for space under these current circumstances for a time for tears.

Blessed are the singers who mourn… for you shall not grieve alone.


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