University Chorus stay active through online music-making and rehearsals

University Chorus Conductor and Head of Choral Programme, Robert Guy and Chorus President, Esther Simkiss discuss the University Chorus and the advantages of virtual music making.

"Since returning from the summer break, Chorus has been meeting to rehearse online via Zoom. Our recent recording of 'The Snow' by Sir Edward Elgar was a team effort, produced by a final year student sound engineer. You can hear four student violinists, a student pianist and eight student singers. We have created a 'chorus conductor cam', and this has helped make our online rehearsals more engaging and exciting for our members.

"At each rehearsal, I mentor a team of six student conductors to take voice sectionals in Zoom breakout rooms and to warm up. I am proud that we are still creating opportunities for our musicians to sing, produce, lead and make music despite the circumstances. We have over one hundred members in Chorus, with our auditioned chamber choirs Ad Solem and the Cosmo Singers at thirty and fifty respectively. There is definitely scope for online educational experience and training in this model and our students are gaining valuable experience. "

- Robert Guy, University Chorus Conductor and Head of Choral Programme

"I have been really encouraged by what Rob, myself and the rest of the 2020/21 Chorus Committee have been able to achieve with online rehearsals so far this term. Despite my initial worries that online Chorus would not be popular we have continued to see over 100 members turn up to the Zoom rehearsal each week. Coming together each Thursday evening to rehearse has brought back some normality for all our members and I am proud of the positive feedback we have received.

"We have set up an excellent YouTube channel where we upload piano accompaniment recordings for each piece, which has helped members to practise at home with ease.

"Additionally, we hold socials every other week so members can chat in breakout rooms after the rehearsal. This has encouraged members to get to know each other and has successfully created stronger bonds between the student and non-student members. In my role as Chorus President, I am gaining such valuable experience in administration, organisation, professionalism and musicianship. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity and I will value the experience it has given me in future roles!

"There are many advantages to online music-making. We have been able to welcome other conductors and singers from other choirs who include the Welsh National Opera Community Chorus and other choirs across North Wales and the North West who have signed up as members and their membership has diversified and grown during the pandemic.

"Many choirs have felt overwhelmed embracing online music-making, it’s good to know Manchester is leading the way in giving people these valuable experiences and providing a sense of community at a time when people need it most.

We have complemented rehearsals with guest visits from industry professionals, which has given members the opportunity to hear valuable professional advice.”

- Esther Simkiss, Chorus President

Industry Professionals include:

  • Naomi Lewis: Chorus Manager at the Royal Opera House
  • Ruth Evans: Head of Artistic Planning and Participation at National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
  • Nihal Arthanayake: Acclaimed broadcaster and TV presenter, currently presenting a daily daytime show on BBC 5 Live
  • Professor John Casken: Internationally acclaimed composer and Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester
  • Paul Mealor OStJ CLJ OSS FRSA: One of the world’s most ‘performed’ living composers

The University Chorus are always eager to welcome back our returning members and to welcome new singers to the choir. If you would like to register, please email: attendance@universitychorus.org.uk.

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