On March 9, it will be one year since members of the Bucks County Women’s Chorus rehearsed in-person together.
The singers in the 95-voice, all-female chorus never dreamed that a time would come when singing in an ensemble would be dangerous, but evidence shows that singing is a COVID superspreader. Nevertheless, when the group suspended rehearsals last year, they never thought they’d be apart for such a long time.
But now, with a third of the ensemble already vaccinated and more scheduled for their first dose in the near future, artistic director Pat Guth said it’s finally time to look to the future and begin to imagine what it will be like to sing together again. She’s hoping this can happen in September or sooner.
“I can picture that first rehearsal,” said Guth with a smile. “There will be lots of hugging, crying, laughing and, of course, singing.
“We’re a tight-knit group. And even though we meet on Zoom a few times a week for a variety of activities, it doesn’t replace being together and hearing those amazing harmonies. My guess is everyone – me included – will be overwhelmed with emotion on that first Monday night when we’re back together.”
Guth reflected on when she attended a webinar in May 2020, which provided information from experts on the fate of musical ensembles during COVID-19. An immunologist told the anxious virtual crowd that it would be 18-24 months before choral groups could sing together again. While she didn’t want to believe it, the doctor was spot on.
As a result, BCWC missed many opportunities slated for 2020. The group had to cancel its April performance tour to Athens and the Greek Islands. The women were also supposed to sing at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and had hopes to return to the White House Holiday Open House for the third consecutive year. These were tough blows for the group – especially the canceled trip – but Guth said there’s much planned for 2021 and 2022, the ensemble’s 10th anniversary year.
About 50 members are signed up to go to Ireland in May 2022, and the group is sponsoring a large choral festival the month before that. She also hopes they’ll have another opportunity to sing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and plans to send an audition track to the White House for consideration for a December concert at The People’s House.
“This has been a tough year,” Guth said. “But we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”
She assumes members will have to be vaccinated in order to participate in rehearsals and concerts, at least for now, and know things will look a bit different then they did pre-pandemic. She hopes venues will still be excited about hosting the ensemble and that members are able to return without fear.
“We just want it to be like it was before 2020,” she said. “But we’re willing to accept some reasonable facsimile of the choir we once were because we recognize it probably won’t be.”
In the meantime, as they wait out these last few months, BCWC members will keep heading to Zoom for fun and fellowship. And while it’s not the same, it suffices for now.
“Sometimes seeing each other’s faces is all we need to set the week right,” Guth said. “A smile and a happy word from a ‘singing sister’ can make all the difference in the world.”