What’s a performer to do when the event that they’ve been preparing for has been ditched due to a global pandemic? They say the show must go on of course – albeit, from a distance.
That’s the situation that the members of the Holy Heart Fellas choir found themselves in when the 50th Annual Kiwanis Music Festival in Carbonear, slated for late March, was cancelled due to COVID-19. But thanks to technology, the members were able to form a virtual choir to help spread some cheer through music during this tense time (performing John Farmer’s “Fair Phyllis”).
“They had worked so hard and they really love that song,” says Robert Colbourne, Choir Director.
“So I sent them all an email and said we can’t do this in real life…so how about if we do a virtual choir? And they were all on board. So they recorded their individual parts and then they sent them to me, and then I made the video – put all their voices together (and) lined them all up so that they were singing at the same time.”
Colbourne says it took about 10 hours to put the video together, as he had to get a handle on the software, but it was well worth it. Since it was posted on March 25, the choir’s video has garnered plenty of attention, views and shares on social media. Besides helping share some joy through music, Colbourne says this project has also helped him stay connected with students after their school year was cut short.
“And it gave us a way to be able to somehow make music together, which is so important in this time,” he adds.
“Music is a healer, music is powerful, music brings people together. So to not have that personal connection, the next best thing we could do was to do (it) this way.”
Colbourne says the choir is now looking forward to making their next video.
The “Fellas” aren’t the only choir who have been performing together while apart. Recently, members of the Atlantic Boychoir from across the province created a moving online performance to help share the #StayHome #SaveLives message (click here to watch the video).
The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO) has also found new ways of connecting with audiences through these challenging times. Recently, over 30 members recorded themselves on their phones and computers performing at home, and put the pieces together to create “Promenade” from Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The project was a collaborative effort conceived by NSO production manager, Steve Power, and the orchestra’s concertmaster, Heather Kao.
“We are also trying some new ways to reach our audiences, and everyone out there looking for some art and peace at this time,” says Hugh Donnan, CEO of the NSO.
The video, Donnan adds, is the first of its kind for the orchestra, which kicks off the “NSO@Home” project (a series of online concerts and educational events). On April 3, on their Facebook page, the NSO broadcast a 2018 performance from the inaugural St. John’s International CircusFest (click here to watch). And this Saturday, April 11, they will follow up with a performance of The Messiah (a repeat performance from December 2019), which will also be shared via their Facebook page at 8pm NST. Donnan says other events will be broadcast each Friday.
“These projects, part of the NSO@Home series, are the NSO’s way of connecting with all of our patrons, new and old, while we continue to follow social distancing requirements and act responsibly in the face of COVID-19,” Donnan says.
Similarly, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) has also found another way to connect with audiences. When their annual “Scene and Heard” industry series (which consists of panels, masterclasses and film screenings) didn’t go ahead as planned this March, they decided to try a new approach.
“This year, we were thrilled with the lineup of artists joining us from across Canada and the USA. We had booked flights, locked venues, confirmed hotels, and prepped film screenings,” says Jenn Brown, Executive Director of the SJIWFF.
“With the events cancelled, we asked ourselves, how can we still support and pay artists? How can we showcase and develop local filmmakers? How can we engage with audiences and offer them entertaining, valuable content?”
The answer came in the form of #CozyChats, in which filmmakers (scheduled to appear as part of Scene and Heard) join local hosts on Instagram Live for candid and interactive conversations about the industry.
“The festival selected Instagram Live as a platform for this series, specifically for its accessibility – not only in terms of being an incredibly user-friendly format for speakers to navigate, but also because of its ubiquity and the possibilities it holds to expand the festival’s audiences by tapping into each filmmaker’s respective audience. It was free to tune in, offered the ‘live’ experience, and kept people home,” Brown says.
“With one week down, we would say the series has already been a success. We saw more guests than we would have during an in-person event, reached a much broader range of audience demographics, and had artists quickly join us from all over. By being creative with our budget, we promptly programmed two additional weeks.”
The second week of #CozyChats, which runs from April 7-11, will feature celebrated filmmakers Simone Smith (Never Steady, Never Still), Tassie Cameron (Mary Kills People), Jasmin Mozaffari (Firecrackers), Jennifer Whalen (Baroness Von Sketch Show), and Cazhhmere (Deeply Rooted). Local SJIWFF hosts include Victoria Wells (C Sharp & D Suspended), Sherry White (Little Dog), Kerry Gamberg (Crush), Jordan Canning (Schitt’s Creek), and Lora Campbell (The Beaverton Digital). (Click here for more information.) Week three will be announced later this week.