Christmas concert despite pandemic

(Sosun Suh, Director of the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus, leads the ladies virtually for their unique 2020 annual Christmas Concert – “Stand Together”.)

The pandemic may have cancelled many activities this year, but the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus was determined that their annual Christmas concert would not be one of them. On Friday, December 4th at 7:30 pm the joyful sounds of the choir will be available on their website at www.westottawaladieschorus.ca/events.

The concert is shorter than their usual concert – probably lasting about half an hour, and it is a virtual event. It will include five songs, among them the beautiful “Christmas Lullaby” and the fun song ”Down, Down the Chimney”. There will be visuals as well as the ladies singing to make it an interesting visual experience.

Producing the concert has been a challenge for all concerned. It required weekly rehearsals by zoom for each section, 1st sopranos, 2nd sopranos and altos,  plus rehearsals for the whole choir.

How do you do that when everyone’s device has different timing and hearing each other all together would produce a cacophony of sound rather than beautiful music? You do it by muting everyone except the conductor and neither she nor any of the choristers can hear what the music sounds like. Each chorister is singing at home on zoom and rehearsing against the music track which we can all hear. We can see each other but not hear each other. So how do you get a concert out of that!

Our new conductor, Sosun Suh, who took over from our former conductor Robert Dueck in the Fall, had a plan, and this is what we did. Sosun sent each chorister a video with her conducting and with the sound of her singing the individual part against the recorded piano track of our accompanist, Peter Brown. Each chorister was then required to make a video at home, or in some cases an audio only recording, of herself singing her part. What was recorded was only the sound of the individual voice.  This was sent electronically to Sosun who then put all the parts together electronically and created a video of the whole choir singing together. It was a kind of magic and amazingly it sounded wonderful.

(The West Ottawa Ladies Chorus after a pop-up concert performed at Brown’s YIG in 2019)

We were very fortunate that Sosun has the skills to produce this technological miracle and it took her many hours to create it.

She has entitled the concert “Stand Together” because in her words: “It is absolutely our 2020 Christmas Concert but this year we have to think more than that. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and it is a frightening time. Our normal life changed and we had to learn and handle many new skills.”

Sosun’s reaction to all this work was succinct. “We never stopped practicing and singing. I am thankful for all new techniques and programs but also I hate it.” She would rather that we could all sing together in person and hear the music we are making.

“But” she said, “we did our best, we smiled together, we sang together and we realized we stand together even in this uncertain time.”

Her wish for those who hear the concert is this: “I want the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus to give peace, joy and hope to the world through our five songs. Our voices will resonate through the pandemic. We still sing. Let’s stand together. Sunshine will come back.”

The concert is free but if you wish to support the choir, a donation button will be available.


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