The current Covid-19 pandemic has uniquely affected not only people in virtually every country around the globe, but also in their work, education, travel, finance, and a host of other areas. A rigorous lockdown helps in safe-guarding the individual’s chances of physical survival, but there can also be a knock-on adverse mental reaction, because of the isolation, and absence of social interaction.
All manner of choirs, orchestras, ensembles, and artists, have come up with various ways of overcoming this, often by making the most of the technology available. Plymouth Philharmonic Choir’s Mary Johnson writes about her recent experiences with the choir, where they have managed to continue ‘making music’ together, but also re-evaluating the positive and beneficial effects which are part and parcel of being a member of such a long-established, and highly-respected local choir.
A Concert In Our Homes
‘For the first concert of Plymouth Philharmonic Choir’s 50th Anniversary Year, a sea-themed programme of music comprised of Parry’s ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’, Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures’, and Vaughan Williams’s ‘A Sea Symphony’ was chosen. It was also set to launch the first of the choir’s two contributions to the Ocean City’s Mayflower 400 celebrations. Undaunted by the necessary cancellations, determined to put everything learned into practice and to share the fun and thrill of this sensational music, the choir swapped the Guildhall’s grandeur for comfort, as they performed ‘A Concert In Our Homes’.
Keith Watterson, the choir’s concert-manager, started the evening with a very witty announcement to the anticipated audience of 37 dogs, 15 cats, 2 budgerigars, one grey parrot, a very quiet Norwegian Blue, 174 Teddy Bears and several bemused teenagers. It included those vital instructions for car parking and the Concert Lockdown.
Spoons, eggs and vegetables
Christopher Fletcher, the choir’s Musical Director, who had apparently been seen earlier in the week practising for the event by conducting his wooden spoons, eggs and vegetables, Miranda-style, was in a reflective mood when he said, ‘ They say that you only realise how much something means to you when it is taken away’.
Brian Gerry, the choir’s president, raised the emotional intensity to another level, by dedicating the occasion to all those people, the NHS staff and other key workers, who are risking their lives on our behalf. He reminded us of a quote by Aaron Copland,
“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it.”
Photographs of singers, many dressed up in vivid sea colours for their concert, have been shared in a wonderful montage on the choir’s Facebook page.
Catherine Hamilton, the highly-acclaimed and much-admired international soprano soloist, who was to be singing with the Choir, also joined in the fun by sending a selfie.
Like no other
The concert was like no other of the nearly 200 performed by this choir during its long history, special, unique and bonding choir members together during these times of social distancing.
Echoing Christopher’s sentiment, the life we used to lead has been turned upside down but, if in the process it allows us to evaluate what is important to us, then that is something positive.
For members of this choir that is the friendships, the sense of wellbeing that comes from singing and the beauty of making music together. We will meet again, we will sing our hearts out with the sheer joy of being able to do so, and we very much hope that you will be there to share the occasion at our next concert – don’t know where, don’t know when – but do keep your eyes on the choir’s website for further information’.
Philip R Buttall
- Haldon String Quartet – Out of Isolation - July 23, 2020
- Plymouth Philharmonic Choir – ‘A Concert in our Homes’ - May 2, 2020
- Some Call It HomeContemporary Classical Music Drama - March 9, 2020