|The traditional Windham Chamber Singers spring concert
honoring the group's seniors will be presented virtually in
June and will be posted on the Windham Chamber Singers'
You Tube Channel. FILE PHOTO
Every year, The Windham Chamber Singers presents a spring concert honoring the group’s seniors. This unusual school year will carry on that tradition with a virtual concert that will premiere on the Chamber Singers’ You Tube Channel in early June.
Typically, their final concert would have been on Thursday, May 27. Windham High School Director of Choral Music Dr. Richard Nickerson said that because it’s a virtual event, it will be pushed into June to allow for more time to edit the final product.
The 2019-2020 school year also ended with a virtual presentation. That event was a slide show since the choir didn’t have their own recordings. This year, Nickerson said, they’ve become more skilled at working as a virtual choir.
“What’s going to be different than last year’s event is that there’s going to be more actual singing from the choir than what we had to work with before,” Nickerson said.
In addition to meeting outdoors briefly in the fall, the Chamber Singers have been able to rehearse in person together since February. In person rehearsals came with many restrictions that pose challenges, including wearing masks and only being allowed to be in the room for 30 minutes before needing to vacate to allow the air to recirculate.
Nickerson said he hopes this is the last time they’ll have to put on a concert virtually.
“I have learned a lot, but it’s not my chosen skill set,” Nickerson said. “That human interaction piece is so huge. And even when we get the kids together, they have to stay so spaced out that there’s this antiseptic quality to it.”
Still, keeping students involved in whatever way possible is important, Nickerson said. And having an activity that is a large part of the student’s lives taken away is of great concern.
For many students, the members of the choir are also their core group of friends. Being unable to see those friends has an incredible impact on mental health, Nickerson said.
“The first time we got together, I don’t really remember what it sounded like. I don’t think it was anything that would give you the goosebumps,” he said. “But what would give you the goosebumps was seeing their faces light up when they saw each other.”
While activities of the Chamber Singers are greatly reduced this year and they’re unable to be present in the community in traditional ways, Nickerson said he’s thrilled to be able to say they’re still out there.
“Most of what we are doing is for us, to keep the group going, keep those connections going, and keep them involved,” he said.
Nickerson is worried about the long term impact pandemic restrictions have. Music programs are elective and rely heavily on feeder programs in the younger grades which this year have not existed, he said.
“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that when kids that age drop out of something, they very seldom go back. That’s not just music, that’s true with everything – so we’re going to have to be extra vigilant in our recruitment efforts,” he said.
According to Nickerson, he is cautiously planning for what next year might look like, he said.
“When things finally open up, whatever that means, we really want to do something big, that will involve travel,” he said. While he doesn’t know where or how, he said, “We’re cautiously optimistic that things might look a little more normal next year.”
Nickerson has booked the American Family Holiday concert for the first Saturday in December as usual.
“Whether that’s going to happen and what it’s going to look like is out of my hands. I really hope it’s going to look like it has in the past, but if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me it’s not to take anything for granted,” he said.
One thing the group has done this year is to expand the use of their You Tube channel. A large library of old videos, some dating back as far as 30 years, is being consistently added to the channel for the community to enjoy.
Details of the spring virtual event will be posted on www.windhamchambersingers.com when available. A link to the You Tube channel is also available on the website. <