Yarra Valley Singers take their rehearsals online

Yarra Valley Singers rehearse via Zoom

When the Coronavirus became a serious concern in Melbourne, the long-established Yarra Valley Singers faced the disappointing possibility of discontinuing the weekly practices for its two choirs. These comprised a daytime and an evening group with some 100 or more members in all, with most aged over 60.

With a lot of research, subsequent planning and decision-making, new and different rehearsals began early in April using the online facility of Zoom. Few members had attended an online meeting prior to COVID restrictions, but after some initial training, most were able to connect with their computers, laptops, tablets, mobile and even landline phones. A number received able assistance and support where needed from those more familiar with modern technology, especially one very knowledgeable member, the Choir Manager, who transformed into the choir’s IT Manager. During rehearsals, our Musical Director has led members through the four or more singing parts in a variety of items, assisted by our regular Choir Accompanist, Zooming from a separate location. Learning has been facilitated with the sharing of audio recordings with orchestral/vocal background. Printed music has been scanned and emailed (with permission) or willingly delivered to other members without printers at home.

The whole experience has proved to be a most successful alternative during the ongoing restrictions. It has provided members with their regular get together for their love of singing and relaxation and has also given them some time for a social and supportive chat. Importantly, it has motivated them with a sense of purpose in coming together regularly and in preparing for future concerts. It is hoped that later in the year it may be possible to have informal Christmas Carol performances given by small groups outdoors, though probably not by the two large choirs for some time yet.

An added bonus is that most members have learnt a new technology which in the lonely isolation for so many, has given them the ability to keep in touch with their family and friends as well as with online supportive services and enrichment programs.

Yarra Valley Singers was one of the first choirs in Victoria to embark on online rehearsals. A further positive and appreciated outcome has also been seen in practical assistance and advice given over the period to other Victorian choirs to help them set up similar scenarios for their groups.