TCS Presents Online Holiday Performance
Includes Handel’s ‘Messiah’
Last updated 12/22/2020 at 9:56am
It’s a strange experience to find yourself alone with your technology, listening to a song on headphones while singing along into the silence of your own room, recording yourself on your smart phone. But of course, 2020 has been a year of just one strange experience after another.
This lonesome singing is what stalwart members of the Transylvania Choral Society have been getting up to for the past few months. After abandoning rehearsals back in mid-March for what was to have been a wonderful benefit concert for the Alzheimer’s Association, members got back together to sing this past September.
Every week approximately 40 singers join a Zoom call with choral director, Dr. David Gresham, and Patti Black on piano, both at a safe distance on the stage of the Porter Center, while choir members are comfortably at home, singing out while family members and pets take shelter in some other area of the house.
From feeling distinctly awkward about singing with gusto in the early days, members have quickly become more comfortable with this remote experience. Before getting down to practicing old songs and learning new, choir members have a chance to chat together on screen, and at the end of meetings there have been occasions where members are arranged in break-out rooms of six or seven, to catch up with old pals and meet up with new.
So, who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? The first such virtual song to be released for the public is “When Memory Fades,” a hymn with words by Dr. Mary Louise Bringle, professor of philosophy and religion at Brevard College. This moving work was to have been sung at the Alzheimer’s benefit in April, and choir members are so pleased to have it available to hear online at both the TCS Facebook page (@Transylvania ChoralSociety) and the TCS website (www.transylvaniachoralsociety.org).
As we’re all more aware, there’s a lot that can be done remotely these days. After recording your own part on your phone or other equipment and emailing it to Dr. Gresham — who’s turned tech wizard extraordinaire — everyone’s audio files are amalgamated into one glorious choral sound, with levels adjusted as needed. The finished hymn was played to the choir at a November Zoom rehearsal and to everyone’s astonishment, it sounds wonderful.
This year’s Christmas performance was to have been Handel’s “Messiah” at the Porter Center, as well as joining the Brevard Philharmonic again in their ever-popular Christmas concert. Of course, none of that can happen, but the “Hallelujah Chorus” and “Glory to God” will be online before Christmas.
As Dr. Gresham said, “After the long hiatus when all choral music came to a crashing halt in mid-March, it has been a real joy to sing together again (even in a virtual world). It has also been nice to take some time to catch up with each other every week because part of being a choir is being a community. I think we all breathed a little deeper after that first rehearsal – not only because we were making music again, but because we could see our people again and even meet some other intrepid singers willing to try out something new.”
Talking of communities, these days TCS has members from all over. There are a few upsides to remote meeting and now TCS members are able to enjoy the involvement of previous choir members who moved away to Colorado, for instance, as well as at least one member’s mother and friend and another’s daughter who now Zoom every week with us. Another plus is not having to dress and drive to our rehearsal space: just a short walk down the corridor at home and there we are.
Many store and business owners in and around Brevard can testify that in a normal year one or two TCS members would have visited them by now, wondering whether they’d like to begin or continue a sponsorship of the choir. Until this year, TCS has truly been served by our local community and with up to 11 upper tier sponsors, along with 16 commercial supporters – not to mention private personal donations – all the expenses of running a choir have usually been covered.
Obviously, this year was going to be different. How could we expect local businesses to maintain their support when they can’t know whether they will sink or swim in this new reality? We’re thankful that one sponsor – Looking Glass Realty – has maintained their contribution. With no active marketing, and no intake from ticket sales at our twice-yearly concerts, funds are low. Sponsorships and donations would be so welcome. Send a check to: TCS, P.O. Box 106, Brevard, NC 28712 or visit our website.
Another choir member put it this way: “We’re not an essential part of life, but appreciating finer things, like music, is indispensable; I’m going to write a check, even if it’s not for much.”
TCS feels sure that one way or another we’ll be around next year to sing together and, we fervently hope, to sing for a real audience in the not too distant future.