Chorus During Covid

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Karah White (’21) records her senior solo. Photo credit: Armand Messier

Bella Bonasera, Writer

Covid. Covid. Covid. That seems to be all that we have been talking about for over a year now, and for good reason, too. The entire world got shut down last spring and with it the possibility of making music with others. The Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans’s music department adapted, of course, but there’s only so much that can be done over a screen. After a year of not being able to sing with others, the Vermont restrictions for music in schools were redefined with new guidelines issued Feb. 17, 2021.

Before these new guidelines, musicians were struggling to create music together.   

“We couldn’t meet in person…there was only one person [allowed] singing in [a] room, and…that room had to be vacated for 30 minutes after…[before another person] could sing,” said Armand Messier, Director of the BFA Chorus. 

Even with the many restrictions, Messier tried to find a way for the group to somehow continue working. 

“We didn’t have [an] after-school chamber choir, but we still tried to put something together with doing things…online…It just wasn’t really realistic for us to be outside, but we did take an opportunity to do a production outside; we made a nice video for the holidays.  We froze [during] that, and the students really persevered in doing that, but we paid the price for it. It’s very different, like the basketball team is not playing outside or practicing outside. And nothing against them or any other sports team…but it’s very harsh conditions to try to be doing music outside in the middle of November and December,” said Messier.  

Messier also spoke with The Mercury about what the music department would have been doing if this was a regular year:  “In a normal year, we would have had a fall production, we would have had some kind of holiday concert [and] we would have had a holiday assembly…Then chorus usually does one single concert in the second semester. So [there are] really four…big productions.”  

Despite COVID restrictions, Messier wasn’t going to let the senior vocalists go without being recognized for their hard work and dedication to the program.

“But [there are] other opportunities, too, that occurred for seniors [this year]. I really wanted to make the best experience we [could] for our music seniors in chorus, so that’s why we’ve gone ahead and featured them with senior solos [with] professional video and editing. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but…give them a real studio experience and give them something that they’ll have recordings for the rest of their life, and they can play it for their kids someday, and they can play it and enjoy it and look back and say…it was not the ideal senior year, but least we had a couple of glimmers of light and hope here to do something…[to] be proud of,” said Messier.

Now, with the new redefined restrictions, students are finally able to sing and create together without a screen hindering them.

“Generally, I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the music guidelines have been changed. People seem happier to be present in school, and being able to sing with peers brightens my day. It’s what I look forward to going to school during such a difficult senior year,” said Sophie Thompson (’21).

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