Sydney Harmony

Sydney Harmony
Type of post: "In Harmony" Newsletter
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: Dick Bushell
Status: Current
Date Posted: Mon, 20 Apr 2020

This has been a testing time for all of us and we know that our fellow barbershoppers across the country and around the world are all dealing with the same problems and hardships. No challenge has been tougher for any of us as ensemble singers than trying to exist as a chorus or quartet at a time when we are unable to meet up in person and sing together in the same room. We know it is the only way for us to stay safe but inside it is slowly wilting our musical souls, going against everything we have known and loved about being harmony singers.

Our chorus made the decision to suspend regular rehearsals after our last Monday together on the 9th March. We had the following week off while we made plans on how we were to go forward in this new era. Our fearless MD Vicki Dwyer, with full support from our Excom and Music Team, resolved to run Virtual Rehearsals in the interim period.

For week one of our Virtual Rehearsals we used Facebook Live and streamed the video direct to our private chorus Facebook group, The Tag Room. It was a pretty good experience for us – Vicki instructed us with the help of some recent chorus recordings that she played as well as her singing and playing piano. We could listen and sing along at home, but we were only able to communicate with each other by typing comments in the chat field.

From week two we have been using the Zoom video conferencing program. This gives us face-to-face contact and the chance to communicate directly with audio as well. So far we have held three Zoom rehearsals. Each week we’re getting better at utilising the technology and getting more adventurous in pushing the boundaries of the platform. In a typical Virtual Rehearsal our MD presents vocalese exercises in warm-up time, goes into detail analysing new and old repertoire and runs reps of our songs using teach tracks and recent chorus recordings as “backing tracks” for us to sing along with at home.

Our Assistant MD Gareth Hearne presents a music theory lesson - sharing his screen and using Powerpoint and PDFs to illustrate his class - while other members of the team assist by giving physical warm-ups and playing video and audio recordings to embellish the rehearsal. We even get to learn a Tag each week! Next rehearsal we will be having Sectionals, using Zoom’s “breakout room” function. And we always take the opportunity to have some fun with the process by singing all together “unmuted” at least once each week – with hilarious results!

Most importantly, at the start and end of each rehearsal we get to hear from each other how we all are doing, what’s happening in our lives with our families and loved ones and who we need to send out hopeful thoughts to. Sydney Harmony has always had a tradition of singing “The Irish Blessing” at the end of each rehearsal and now, more than ever, this tradition has become an essential bond for us in these strange and troubling times.

Sure, rehearsing over the internet is not the same… but it is keeping us together.

Stay safe everyone.

Tony Sykes
Sydney Harmony VP Music