At Manchester, we have embraced the new world. Since returning from the summer break, the University of Manchester Chorus has been meeting to rehearse online via Zoom. Our recent recording of 'The Snow' by Sir Edward Elgar was a true team effort.
This video was produced by final year student sound engineer Alex Sansbury, and you can hear four student violinists (two in 1st year), a student pianist and eight student singers. We wanted to have a 'chorus conductor cam' and we have found that this has helped make our online rehearsals more engaging and exciting for our members. Each rehearsal we have a team of six student conductors who I mentor to take voice sectionals in breakout rooms and take a warmup. I am proud that we are still creating opportunities for our musicians to sing/produce/lead and make music despite the circumstances. We have over 100 members in Chorus with both our auditioned chamber choirs Ad Solem and The Cosmo Singers at 30 and 50 respectively. There is definitely scope for online education experience/training in this model and our students are gaining valuable experience. Here is a special lockdown performance from The Cosmo Singers; one of our two auditioned chamber choirs at the University of Manchester.
A note from our President Esther Simkiss (who is a 2nd year joint Music & Drama student)
"I have been really encouraged by what Rob, myself and the rest of the 2020/21 Chorus Committee have been able to achieve with online rehearsals so far this term. Despite my initial worries that online Chorus would not be popular we have continued to see over 100 members turn up to the zoom rehearsal each week. Coming together each Thursday evening to rehearse has brought back some normality for all our members and I am proud of how much positive feedback we have received. We have been able to set up an excellent YouTube channel where we upload piano accompaniment recordings for each piece which has helped members to practice at home with ease. Additionally, we hold socials every other week so members can chat in breakout rooms after the rehearsal. This has encouraged all our members to get to know each other and has successfully created stronger bonds between the student and non-student members. In my role as Chorus President I am gaining such valuable experience in administration, organisation, professionalism and musicianship. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity and I will value the experience it has given me in future roles!"
Advantages of online
We have welcomed other conductors and singers from other choirs who include the Welsh National Opera Community Chorus and other choirs across North Wales and the North West who have signed up as members. Our membership has diversified and grown during the pandemic. Many choirs have felt overwhelmed embracing online music making. It is good to know that Manchester is leading the way giving people these valuable experiences and providing a sense of community at a time when we need it most. We have complemented rehearsals with guest visits from industry professionals which has given members the opportunity to hear valuable professional advice.
Naomi Lewis: Chorus Manager at the Royal Opera House
Ruth Evans: Head of Artistic and Planning at National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
Nihal Arthanayake: acclaimed broadcaster and TV presenter. He currently presents a daily daytime show on BBC 5 Live.
Professor John Casken: Internationally acclaimed composer and Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester
Paul Mealor OStJ CLJ OSS FRSA: one of the world’s most ‘performed’ living composers