Singing Online


Zooming around Essex and beyond!

Writtle Singers, like many other choirs, continued to ‘meet’ online from the beginning of lockdown in March 2020. For over a year, as well as continuing to explore new repertoire and keep our voices and skills in trim, we held several open sessions as well as an excellent, if highly unusual, vocal training session with Ghislaine Morgan.

The thoughts below reflect quite an early stage in this strange, and now rather long, journey online!

We all had to become familiar with the Zoom platform, and the few who were initially unable to join in were helped to do so by kind fellow members.

It was wonderful to see everyone on the screen from week to week – even if those of us with smartphones could only see four images at once.

What luxury for some:  twenty five pictures at a glance!

But . . . seeing our friends and fellow singers is one thing; hearing them is another issue altogether. There is a small time delay between hearing someone else’s sound and being able to respond, and it quickly became apparent that if we tried to sing or play together the result was just an awful noise. . . so the system of rehearsing had to adapt: the MD (now re-designated the Zoom meeting host J) constantly reminded us to ‘Mute’ (that’s was big change in itself!) and playing the voice parts on piano, one at a time or in various combinations, for us to sing along with – although of course we could not hear anyone else. The alternative was to show a You Tube video of someone else’s recording, complete with their MD’s idiosyncrasies of tempo and pronunciation. We discovered some very interesting performances, and not always in a good way!

Before the Zoom period we had been preparing for our Spring concert on 4 April: “Made in Essex – music written in and around Essex, from Byrd and Tallis to contemporary settings of folksong, Shakespeare and some crazy poems about our very own county!”

In the hope that we might be able to postpone this concert until later in the year, we continued to keep the music fresh in our minds from week to week whilst also learning some ‘new’ pieces by Elgar, Quilter, Stanford and Schütz amongst others. It wasn’t the same as singing all together and being able to hear and blend with each other, but still useful.

It was perhaps surprising to find that working in this new way took quite a lot of concentration, and we soon introduced a new feature to give us a short respite: each week a different choir member talked about a favourite piece of music which was special to them and we then listened to a recording – usually a motet, a part song, or an excerpt from a larger work.

Despite all the technical challenges in this period, we managed to explore and learn some beautiful – and unusual – repertoire, to get to know each other a little more and to delight in one another’s pets and gardens through the wondrous medium of Zoom.

Feedback from a guest at our end-of-term session:

“Thank you for having me. A delightful repertoire. It’s so nice to still be discovering gems (especially British ones.) Really appreciated Christine’s skilful chairing and lovely to see people’s gardens.”

Feedback from members who have participated in our online sessions:

“Virtual choir has been a constant in a weird time over the last few months.”

“. . . My thanks too for everyone contributing during this and keeping going. It’s been difficult for everyone I’m sure with family commitments as well as work and to keep going with this has been marvellous.”

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