It’s on the mind of every chorister from Hamilton to Timbuktu during this pandemic pause: When will choirs come together again in-person?
Not until the development of a COVID-19 vaccine or drug treatments with 95 per cent efficacy, according to Dr. Lucinda Halstead, medical director at the Medical University of South Carolina Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing, and president elect of the Performing Arts Medicine Association.
In her May 5 presentation for a National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) webinar, Halstead went on to say that until a vaccine or safe treatments are developed, “social distancing is key — mask, gloves, spacing is going to be really ideal.” The scenario she outlined for a return to group singing with the least amount of risk would entail, among others, at-the-door screening consisting of temperature and pulse oximetry checks administered in a private space by a non-choir person. She also said that there was no solution to singing without a mask “unless you’re wearing the mask or the hoods that the orthopedic surgeons wear which are essentially space suits with an oxygen supply.”
Not surprisingly, Halstead’s words rumbled like a seismic shock through the choral community.
“It struck me as alarmist when I first read it a few weeks ago,” said Musicata music director, Roger Bergs, for The Spectator’s ongoing series on how local choirs and their directors are weathering the pandemic pause. “More research has come out since questioning some of the conclusions it reached. Nevertheless, we have to respect any official guidelines we receive. At Musicata, we are subject as anyone else to governmental regulations. We hope that if the specific issue of singing is addressed, that those guidelines will be clear and capable of taking into account all sorts of variabilities — size of choir, masks or not, size of building, amount of distancing possible, etc.”
And until government regulations permit group singing, what then?
“Under current conditions, all that we can do is plan,” said Bergs. “But when things are loosened up, our home base for rehearsals and performances, Central Presbyterian Church, with its good acoustics and enormous interior space, should prove to be an enormous asset. The large sanctuary would allow for rehearsals to resume with safe distancing, perhaps limited to sectional rehearsals to begin with. Central could allow for a socially-distanced seating arrangement for audiences.”
Bergs feels that by being a chamber choir, Musicata could quickly adapt to a fluid situation. Among the levers that could be pulled for the coming season are setting concert dates in stone shortly beforehand, planning ad hoc performances, offering shorter concerts and multiple consecutive performances of a program, plus recording a performance should a live version before an audience prove prohibitive.
Should circumstances allow, then next season Bergs and Musicata would present a subscription series of three concerts, one focusing on Christmas, another on musical theatre with pianist-composer Rosalind Mills, plus the “Old Meets New” concert which was postponed from April 26 and was to have featured George Shearing’s “Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare” as well as the première of Canadian composer Bonnie Penfound’s “Five Love Poems of Robert Herrick.”
Plans are still afoot for Musicata to record three works they’d premièred over the past few years and to sing at the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ 2021 Organ Festival Canada in Hamilton next July.
In addition to directing Musicata, Bergs holds down a handful of other part-time positions. He’s music director at Central Presbyterian, instructor in music at Redeemer University and sessional lecturer in music at the U of T where he teaches composition and theory, adjunct professor of worship at Toronto Baptist Seminary, and a private composition teacher. On the side, he’s currently editing a hymnal in collaboration with a pastor colleague.
In spite of the loss of personal contact with musicians and audiences not to mention a chunk of his income, Bergs is experiencing one bright side to this pandemic pause.
“A sense of respite,” said Bergs. “Something I have not had in years.”
Musicata will be performing a free concert on Sunday, March 8th as
part of the Lenten Concert Series. Come hear us perform sacred music by
Canadian composers in the beautiful setting of Central Presbyterian
Church: Eight Jeremiads by Roger Bergs, and Crux – A Requiem by Alice
Admission is free but donations will be gladly accepted.
Our first concert of the season, “With One Accord” has been rescheduled to Sunday, December 15th at 3:00 pm.
As you all know, we had to postpone this concert last Sunday due to the
ice storm, and we’re happy that we’ve been able to reschedule it before
the holidays. Please come out and join us for this original and unique
take on seasonal music, with some original pieces.
Season subscriptions and concert tickets are now on sale for our 2019-20 season! We’re very excited by our new season, which offers Musicata performing with a variety of guest artists and a diversity of musical styles.
Sunday, December 1, 3:00 pm – With One Accord
Musicata plus Accordionist Michael Bridge, a charismatic virtuoso player comfortable in a wide variety of styles.
The music is mostly seasonal, but reimagined with accordion accompaniment. Music by Piazolla, Luengen and Chatman combine with more traditional sources to create a seasonal tapestry unlike any other.
Sunday, February 23, 3:00 pm – Choir and Chroi
Musicata plus Irish folk group Chroi, a Celtic-inspired band who sing while playing the piano, violin, and bodran, in a program of classic and folk music rooted in the Emerald Isle.
Sunday, April 26, 3:00 pm – Old Meets New
Music by composers finding new meanings in ancient texts, including Five Love Poems of Robert Herrick set by Canadian composer Bonnie Penfound (world premiere), Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets of Shakespeare, plus works by Gjeilo, Mealor, and Roderick Williams.
We’re also celebrating a new home at Central Presbyterian Church at Charlton and Bay in downtown Hamilton.
You can now watch 5 videos from our December 1 concert – Drums and Dances: Christmas Music for Choir and Percussion – that feature traditional Christmas tunes, two from Africa, and three Spanish Christmas songs. The videos are now posted on our Watch & Listen page, or you can visit our YouTube channel.
We here at Musicata – Hamilton’s Voices are excited to introduce you to our wonderful new website. There are many great features to the site, including the capacity to buy tickets, make donations, watch videos, and, of course, this new blog, where we’ll update you on all things Musicata, as well the latest from the world of choral music. This initiative is to broaden our reach and make us more accessible to the Hamilton Community and the rest of the world. We thank all of those who have made this possible including, The City of Hamilton’s Enrichment Capacity Fund, our Musicata Choir Members for their input and Craig Logue at Southpaw Creative for his web design services.
Please feel free to share your feedback with us by dropping us a line. Don’t forget to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest news.
Musicata – Hamilton’s Voices’ re-branding initiative saw a successful launch with our first concert in November 2016. Our second season continued to be well attended and well received by the community. As we continue into our third season, our new brand is proudly reflective of Hamilton’s increasingly strong presence on the Ontario cultural stage.
Musicata will continue to market ourselves as explorers of new choral territory under the expertise of Dr. Bergs, while continuing our strong tradition of choral excellence. Dr. Bergs’ innovative programming is taking the choir in adventurous new directions that we are keen to share with a wider audience.
Our mission and primary goal is to elevate the human experience through our choral performances and to engage a wide-ranging audience, including people who have not yet had exposure to classical and/or choral music. We are committed to collaborating with local professional musicians, composers and guest artists who are just beginning their careers.
The 2018-19 season will engage percussionists, a pianist and Canadian composers in various combinations with the choir. The programming will support our new brand as a continually evolving choral presence with a fresh vision and the choral skills to successfully implement exciting and innovative planning. It will contribute to our overall choral development by having us work on arrangements and compositions that go well beyond the standard repertoire.
Our intent is to challenge and inspire our members to learn new styles of music, work with new musical artists, and lead the way in bringing new works to the public.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions regarding opportunities for Membership, Community Partnership, Volunteering or Artist Collaborations.