In the gloom and damp of October, Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir (YPC) members met up for two short and very safely conducted ‘half choir’ rehearsals, enjoying the fabulous acoustics of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church (sometimes known as St. Asda’s, due to its proximity to a large and well known supermarket).
Right from the beginning of the lockdown in March, YPC members have continued to meet and rehearse from the individual safety of their own kitchens, living rooms, offices – anywhere they can log into the choir website and find enough space to spread out their music.
These virtual rehearsals have been moments of pure joy, pleasure and escape in difficult times and have enabled members to learn new pieces (the Brahms Requiem), polish their wide and varied repertoire and enjoy an opportunity to improve their musical skills and voices under the expert, imaginative and persuasive coaching of Musical Director, Andrew Padmore.
The virtual rehearsals have been amazingly well- and consistently attended, maintaining the choir’s precious ‘esprit de corps’ - and making sure that YPC is poised ready to put on performances as soon as it is safe and secure to do so.
But there is nothing at all like the real thing – real people, real acoustics and the intoxicating sound and experience of real-life choral singing. So Andrew and Derek (the choir’s Chairman), working with the choir’s committee and choir members who are also members of St. Peter and St. Paul’s church, got together to provide a one-off (though hopefully not the only one-off) opportunity to have a real-life rehearsal. Much research into the regulations, best safety practice, risk assessments and site organisation was undertaken – and bore fruit in October, offering members access to one of two, short, ‘half choir’ sessions.
One choir member said ‘it felt like my singing had come alive. It is great having our rehearsals and belting away in the kitchen to the pots and pans, but it does rather lack something. It was marvellous to be led once again by Andrew and Tom (the choir’s superbly talented Accompanist) and see my colleague members – even though I was not able to socialise with them’.
The rehearsal started with Mozart’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ and ended with Handel’s joyously exciting ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, taking in some Faure, Vivaldi Elgar and Brahms en route.
There were a few suspiciously glassy eyes as the choir members carefully and separately left the church. But many sang or hummed as they went – happy to have done something ‘near normal’, happy to have got in touch with choral singing once again, and happy to have experienced the exciting high that good choral singing brings.
A wonderful, uplifting evening, singing away the gloom.