My last in-person rehearsal with my two youth choirs at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church was Wednesday, March 11. I did not know until the following day, however, that it would be the last time I’d see those singers for the foreseeable future. When I found out, my heart sank. Our youth choir program has been a thriving and committed community within our congregation for over 20 years. Friendships among children and their parents have taken root over Wednesday night meals at church and after-choir games of tag out on the lawn, and lifelong singers have been nurtured. I’ve always felt that this ministry is as much about building relationships as it is about making music. Faced with the dire predictions about the pandemic, I knew that it would be important to help us all maintain some sense of connection and continuity during this uncertain time. I wanted to make sure the children could still see their friends. I wanted to keep them singing. And I was already mourning the loss of the joy they bring to my life. I needed them as much as I hope they needed me.
I had been on a couple of Zoom calls over the past year so I thought it might be a platform that I could use to meet with singers. I polled my families to ask if they wanted to “keep” our Wednesday night rehearsals and the positive response was overwhelming. I was both excited and terrified. I would have to step up my game to appeal to this crowd. The first thing I did was to create a visually enticing space using some stuffed animals who were “saving spots” for the children until they could return. I sent out the photo below in advance to pull them in.
I played with a room setup that allowed me to be at the piano and kept their “reserved” places behind me as a welcoming backdrop. I decided it would be fun to have a helper join me for rehearsals. Randy Racoon is a hand puppet that has been a regular on the Zoom calls now for three weeks. The children enjoy seeing him try to do warm-ups with them and they love giving him a high five at the end of rehearsal.
Next time, I’ll discuss the nuts and bolts (and pitfalls) about leading a Zoom rehearsal. Until then, keep trying to connect in some way with your singers!