CAC NEWS - December 2020
What a year 2020 has been! But this Christmas season, we have as much to give thanks for as past years. We rejoice with songs of praise and we gather to encourage this family of faith. May our worship be holy and acceptable to our Father. Hallelujah, for the God of Hope is in our midst. The Christ who was born to us is, indeed, coming again. Christmas greetings from CAC's newly elected Conference Officials and Board Chairs.

What Can Church Choirs Do During the Pandemic?

TACMC Church Choir

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared coronavirus disease ‘COVID-19’ a global pandemic. This pandemic has greatly impacted every country, in every segment of society: health-care, business and economy. It also affects the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of society and individuals. Churches were not able to conduct in-person worship services. It is mind boggling that a tiny, invisible virus could cause such havoc to the world. It awakens us to the fact that life is fragile; we live in a world of constant troubles. As Christians, however, we believe and trust that God loves us and is still sovereign and in control. Instead of being paralysed by fear, we could be creative and turn this pandemic into opportunity and blessing!

This article is a reflection on what church choirs can do during this pandemic. Under the present circumstances where vaccines are yet available, in-person singing in the choir is a high risk activity and is not encouraged. This is because of the aerosols — tiny respiratory droplets — generated when singers project their voices. They may unwittingly spread the virus. There is no safe physical distancing in singing. It has been reported that 53 out of 61 choir members were infected at a church choir practice in Skagit County, Washington, in March 2020, by one singer. Two choir members died. This is a tragedy we must avoid.

Does this mean, then, that church choirs should stop singing or functioning during the pandemic? I do not think so.

For online worship services, choir members could record the hymns/songs to be sung not only to support the singing, but also to provide a sense of familiarity to the congregation who has to adjust from in-person worship to virtual worship.

It is important that choirs do not stop singing or connecting with one another. In times like these, we need to be creative and explore new ways of not only singing together, but also in continuing to serve the faith community with the help of technology. One of the main functions of the choir is to support congregational singing. For online worship services, choir members could record the hymns/songs to be sung not only to support the singing, but also to provide a sense of familiarity to the congregation who has to adjust from in-person worship to virtual worship. This would be more effective and personal than just using recorded songs from outside sources. Online worship services should resemble as much as possible in-person worship services. The congregation must be encouraged to actively participate in every aspect of the service and not just passively “watch” as if watching a performance or show. Congregational singing is a great way to actively participate in worship, whether in-person, or online.

The congregation must be encouraged to actively participate in every aspect of the service and not just passively “watch” as if watching a performance or show.

We are blessed to live at a time when technology gives us the opportunity to make music even when we are apart. Church choirs need to adapt and find new ways of bringing their members together. The concept of virtual choir is worth our serious consideration. It takes great effort to create a virtual choir. We must have the desire and be prepared to commit the time to learn new skills to record the singing individually at home. In addition, the choir director has to do the mixing and editing to put all the voices together. If the church does not have a sound engineer available to help, then the choir director or a choir member has to learn the technical know-how to put everything together. Though a great challenge, it is nevertheless an excellent opportunity to learn new skills in recording, audio and video editing. The Methodist School of Music has conducted several online trainings on these skills. You may refer to MSM Video Channel for recorded trainings on “Audio editing for beginners”, “Video editing for beginners” and “Virtual Choir Production”.

The concept of virtual choir is worth our serious consideration … Though a great challenge, it is nevertheless an excellent opportunity to learn new skills in recording, audio and video editing.

Unlike in-person performances, anthems or hymns that are recorded can be played back and listened to over and over again. It can minister to a wider group of people, especially those sick or elderly who are not able to attend church physically. Like online worship services, it can reach out to more people and minister to even those who otherwise do not go to church. I was pleasantly surprised that my church’s (Jasin Chinese Methodist Church in Melaka) first online service on June 14, 2020 has gathered as many as 320 viewers on YouTube, almost ten times more than our average Sunday attendance of only 35! This seems to be the case for many churches where attendance by online worshippers exceed the church’s regular attendance. This is an unexpected blessing for the church to reach out to the wider community.

… anthems or hymns that are recorded can be played back and listened to over and over again. It can minister to a wider group of people, especially those sick or elderly who are not able to attend church physically.

Virtual choir performances are not the only way for choirs to stay connected and active during the pandemic. Choirs could also use Zoom or other online service providers to feature guest speakers and discuss topics such as singing techniques. Over Zoom meetings, choir members can encourage and support one another while keeping physical distancing.

Despite all the uncertainties and challenges during this pandemic, let us continue to be creative in exploring new ways to sing together and to serve!

 

Ms Mary Y.T. Gan

Founding Principal (Retired), Methodist School of Music

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