Shepparton choir Zooms ahead

By John Lewis

While Covid-19 has silenced musical gatherings in public, online lounge room performances and rehearsals are all the go.

Goulburn Valley Concert Orchestra president Helen Rankin announced this week the orchestra's popular annual concert in June had been postponed and its regular chamber orchestra series in September was also in doubt.

However, she said musicians were practising their parts individually at home.

“When this is all over, we will have a big concert to celebrate,” Mrs Rankin said.

A music teacher, Mrs Rankin said she also held regular online classes with music students from Dookie and Shepparton East.

“Until this arrived I never knew anything about Skype. We'd be lost without this technology,” she said.

Orchestra founder and violinist Wendy Oakes said online rehearsals between string players were not practical.

“Because of the time lag online it is too difficult to play together,” Mrs Oakes said.

However, Shepparton's 36 Degrees South Choir choirmaster Wade Gregory said singers had been regularly using online platforms to meet and sing together.

“We've had five rehearsals on Zoom, and we did a Facebook livestream event for friends and family, which drew views from London and Tasmania,” Mr Gregory said.

He said the Zoom rehearsals regularly attracted between 15 and 20 choir members.

“I have to mute everyone, and they sing and follow my piano part in their own lounge rooms. Then we all have a chat afterwards,” he said.

“Someone said last week, ‘I haven't spoken to a real human in weeks'. So it's been a great way to keep connected.”

Mr Gregory said he had been asked to produce a "couch choir" event similar to ones hosted by fellow choirmaster and friend Astrid Jorgensen from Brisbane.

Ms Jorgensen's choirs began as local pub choirs before moving online to become hugely successful global events, attracting thousands of participants during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately we just don't have the time or the technical expertise to produce one of these huge events, but we are trying to keep some normalcy in people's lives by hosting Zoom rehearsals,” Mr Gregory said.

“And we hope to have a huge concert for everyone when this is all over.”