Coronavirus: Choir keeps 'spirit alive' rehearsing online

By Kathy Peart
BBC News

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image captionMembers have been joining rehearsals from the comfort of their living rooms

A "silent sing song" is an unusual method a choir is using to keep performing during the coronavirus outbreak.

With thousands of gigs and concerts cancelled around the world, the Morriston Orpheus Choir from Swansea is continuing to rehearse online.

Members, aged 22 to 88, have been using the conferencing app Zoom every Sunday.

Most are over 70 and it means they are able to continue rehearsing and socialising despite being in isolation.

It was the idea of one of the youngest members, Aaron Brown, 26.

"I couldn't work out how it would work, so I tested it with a few members of the committee first," he said.

"We obviously want to hear Joy on the piano first and foremost and Zoom picks whoever is the loudest and then everybody else below that gets muted out and there is also a delay.

"We found with more than about 10 people talking at once it all jumbles anyway, so with 40 singing you would just get white noise."

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image captionAdrian Walters has been a member for 33 years and said it is vital the choir keeps singing through the lock down

In the end, it was decided the pianist's microphone would stay on and everyone else's would be switched off.

Mr Brown said "everyone looked like they were silently mouthing along, but they were singing - I couldn't stop grinning".

The setting makes a change from the lecture theatre at Swansea University the choir usually packs into twice a week.

This year, the choir is celebrating its 85th birthday and the 85 choristers have had to cancel or postpone a number of performances - including a charity concert at Porthcawl's Grand Pavilion in May and a slot at the Caerleon Festival in July.

Mr Brown said despite a few minor teething problems, all members joined the Zoom rehearsal, including one in his 80s "singing merrily".

"Its not the same as the usual rehearsal, but it did get pretty good," he added.

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image captionThey may not have been able to hear each other during rehearsals, but all members gave a happy wave to say goodbye at the end

"It means in three or six months' time when we get back to normal rehearsals we won't have lost so much time, we can hit the ground running and it's also great from a social point of view."

Musical director Joy Aman-Davies said despite Zoom's limitations for group singing, the app had become an important way for her choir to socialise.

'Some of them live on their own, some of them have lost their wives," she said.

"There is a real feel-good factor in the Morriston Orpheus Choir. Its like an extended family."

She said the most important thing was they "keep in touch" and "keep the spirit alive".

Adrian Walters, 73, has been in the choir for 33 years and said it was vital its members carried on singing together.

"Most of us have been singing these songs for so long we can all sing them in our sleep," he said.

"But the trouble is our memories are slipping and we may forget the odd note in between, so it's very important to revise, revise, revise, just like an exam."

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