Even before the pandemic, musicians have known all along that music is a superspreader. It’s a superspreader of joy, hope, love, and togetherness. For choir singers and musicians, there is a special sense of recognition that music is vital not only to our psychological and spiritual being but also to our social lives.
Music has the power to build bonds and hold communities together. We recognize, just like in our gathering songs or opening hymns, music’s transcendent power to bring people together, uniting us in harmony and providing the cadence for our voices as well as our heartbeats as we move into the space that we share. However, with the social distancing and isolation that we’ve had to deal with this past year, we just can’t wait to unite our voices and our instruments once again to make beautiful music together and continue to spread hope, love, and joy.
In the early months of the pandemic, an outbreak after a choir practice in Washington State revealed to us the mystery of how connected we truly are when we make music together. After learning how much of a “superspreader event” choir singing is, we were faced with the heartbreaking reality that choir singing will not be happening for a while. And who knows when and how we’ll be able to share the same space to make music together again?
The “ber” months (September, October, November, December), to me and many members of my Christmas choir, are special months. In the past several years, as soon as September hits, our Filipino choir starts to gather for practices and just fill the summer airwaves with Christmas music already. But because of the global pandemic, the joyful jingles usually sung and heard throughout the “ber” months have left a big hole in our hearts.
The Music Must Go On
Our need to make music together now is more important than ever. James Regalado, a member of several other choir groups, admits that he misses the in-person choir practices and performances, along with the camaraderie, the bonding, and the potlucks. However, he also admits that he has learned to embrace the substitute reality of performing with his choir virtually. He and his fellow choir members have learned to adapt and even learned new technological skills such as recording and editing. The groups he sings with have indeed produced some of the most beautiful virtual choral collaborations shared online. James says that he has accepted the likelihood that this is the way it will be for a while but still, the making of music together goes on. He even relishes the fact that, now, because of the worldwide scope of virtual practices and productions, he gets to collaborate and sing with singers and choir groups from all over the world.
Something is refreshing about James’ lean-in perspective because the alternative is not to make music together at all. Thanks to human ingenuity, we have the technology to keep making music together possible. Many of us are have been working or schooling virtually. It’s not the ideal scenario and it can be very challenging and frustrating, but we’ll roll with it and even make the most of it. In times of despair and when we need it the most, music continues to give us the opportunity and the calling to thrive and continue to make beautiful music together.
Music is a gift that brings us together. And yes, even virtually. I sincerely hope that we will soon be able to sing together again in the same space because there is no substitute for the joy that comes from that experience. But as we wait a little longer, why not lean in, cherish the new opportunities like James and his choir groups did, make the most of it, and find novel ways to keep making beautiful music together?
For some inspiring and amazing virtual choral productions, check out:
About the Author:
BJ Gonzalvo, PhD, a psychologist and author writes on matters of faith and culture. His writing has appeared in Mind & Spirit Magazine, Busted Halo, Positively Filipino, and Northwest Catholic. He currently resides in Washington State but will always call Laguna, Philippines home.