The Eclectica Community Choir’ Christmas concert at Exeter Hall is in limbo this year.
Musical director Barbara Hooper said the choir typically regroups for rehearsals in September for their fall and winter season. However, it’s unlikely the group will get back together for practice or performance this year because it’s too hard to keep 40 people two metres apart as per the province’s physical distancing requirements.
What this means for the Christmas Concert is uncertain, she added, because even if they do get back together in time to put one on, she doesn’t know if they can perform in front of a crowd. “It’s all taking it one day at a time and keeping in touch with what Dr. Bonnie Henry says,” Hooper said.
The choir’s last performance was at the Parade of Choirs in Williams Lake in early March, just before they stopped rehearsals because of COVID-19’s restrictions on large gatherings. Although the choir has been going strong for 40 years, more than half of the current 44 members were over 60 at the end of last season, said Hooper.
“I wouldn’t call it seniors’ choir because we have quite a few young people, sometimes even children and teenagers, but the majority of us are over 60 so that’s what we had to think about when we made the decision in March to stop rehearsals,” she said.
Hooper noted that if the choir had a gymnasium to practice in, they could manage, but they don’t have access to one right now. While some choirs around the world are back together wearing face masks, Hopper said she is worried the masks would muffle the sound and make it difficult during practice to see what people are doing with their mouths.
Face shields rather than masks, which she learned one of her contemporaries is planning on using, would work much better, Hooper said. Another protocol that choirs’ have been using is forming a W formation, which allows people to space themselves out but still remains in a compact shape.
“It’s probably not going to be business as normal for a very long time but just getting together in parks and chanting or vocalizing (is a possibility),” Hooper said, adding that it may turn out only 25 choir members would like to return this year.
The loss of the choir has been hard on some of its members, Hooper said, as a lot of them rely on it for socializing and their own mental health. She has seen music have a huge net positive impact on people – from making them happier to helping them with their breathing. The community has also told her in the past that, until the choir sings at Martin Exeter Hall, it doesn’t feel Christmas for some people.
“There’s something about singing in a choir. It’s the harmony, it’s so amazing and what you feel after singing for months and months to perfect a song and then perform in front of an audience, it’s quite a high and an amazing feeling,” Hooper said.
It’s not just the members who are affected.
Typically, the proceeds of Eclectica’s Christmas Concert go to both of the food banks in 100 Mile House, Hooper said, while their Spring Concert, which usually happens around Mother’s Day is earmarked for the 100 Mile District General Hospital Auxiliary and the Mill Site Lodge/Fisher Place Auxiliary.
Music, insurance, rehearsal fees and renting a performance space comes from a $30 a season fee charged to those within the choir and any donations the choir receives throughout the year. At its last Christmas concert the choir raised around $3,000 which for a small town is considerable, Hooper said.