It was supposed to be the biggest year yet for the 95-member Bucks County Women’s Chorus.
After joining legendary rock band Foreigner on stage at Parx Casino and performing holiday tunes at the White House for the second time, director Pat Guth was determined to top 2019’s unforgettable moments.
During a rehearsal on March 9 at Holland’s Twining Village, the ladies could be found fine tuning their spring repertoire, which was meant to be performed in six weeks on a tour of Athens and the Greek Islands.
There was nothing but smiles and excitement. Not only was the group unaware that its highly anticipated trip would soon be canceled, in addition to local concerts and an end-of-year banquet, but March 9 would be its last time together for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Guth, who founded the group in 2012. “There was so much planned for the spring and all of those plans were gone in an instant.”
As the country adapted to the “new norm” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guth created a new norm for the chorus. She turned to Zoom for “virtual” sections – rehearsals that allow the altos or sopranos to come together and work on their current repertoire.
Though Zoom doesn’t allow the group to sing together because of the sound delay involved, the women can practice their parts from the comfort of their homes. Guth plays the piano and sings each part individually, and the vocalists sing along with muted microphones.
“Though it’ll never replace singing together, it does allow us to continue to learn our music and, more importantly, to interact with each other,” Guth said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s something.”
In order to maintain the cohesiveness of the tight-knit group, Guth schedules choir “socials” each week. Members gather on Zoom to play games or simply talk, which Guth said is much needed, especially for the women who live alone. She plans to host “themed” nights soon.
Earlier this month, Guth also organized a group therapy session led by one of her singers, who is a mental health professional. Members were given a safe space to voice their fears, stresses and anxieties. The session was attended by nearly a quarter of the group, with many asking for a similar opportunity.
“It’s really all about staying connected,” Guth said. “This is a group of women who are not only good friends, but who have come to depend on one another for support and comfort as well. To have that support system suddenly wrenched from you is traumatic and I just knew I couldn’t leave it that way.”
Guth said she feels it, too, and deeply misses the routine of Monday night rehearsals. While she’s fortunate to be healthy and at home with her husband and daughter (whom they “rescued” from New York City), not knowing when the choir will be able to get back together is frustrating. According to Guth, it’s also hard to say when audiences will feel safe enough to gather for concerts. The BCWC is hoping for the fall, but there’s no guarantee.
In the meantime, Guth promised she’ll keep organizing Zoom rehearsals and get-togethers. She’s eager to keep members in tune with one another so that when the time comes to resume some normalcy, they’ll have maintained those friendships that are the foundation of the Bucks County Women’s Chorus.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org