After overcoming the challenges of Zoom rehearsals, the technical issues and fears over recording ourselves for virtual choir tracks, and the element of the unknown with streaming a virtual concert, ‘The Phil’ had one further challenge to see out this most strange of years. The one thing that we miss most of all is the opportunity to socialise as a choir. We streamed a full concert in the Summer on YouTube, where we played numerous songs that we had recorded and compiled. To mark Christmas we then opted for a more informal affair where we encouraged audience members to sing along (albeit muted) and join in with our singing over Zoom. We have also had David Todd replicating our post-rehearsal pub gatherings as well as possible with weekly Facebook Live broadcasts. This March, however, we chose to hold a "virtual soiree" for members and friends over Zoom. Our previous accompanist, Eileen Grey, had established the format of the "YPMVC Soiree" where we would hire a venue and perform solos and small group numbers to each other in a safe and supportive environment. Many of our singers are not necessarily confident soloists and yet here was an opportunity to have a go and to enjoy each other's company in the meantime. There were also a good number of participatory elements and an amount of silliness, aided by a well stocked bar. Could we, we wondered, replicate this atmosphere over Zoom? I put the call out for willing participants and I soon had a full programme consisting of recorded and live elements, song and spoken word (including self-penned items) and numerous instrumental offerings. Some brave singers sang A Cappella whilst others performed either to backing tracks or to piano accompaniments provided for them by our current accompanist, Helen Smith. The audience unmuted themselves to applaud and commented over the chat function and then, during the interval, we were randomly assigned into several breakout rooms where we could chat and socialise in more manageable numbers. Whilst it seemed a lot of fun was had there was also a more reflective element to echo the current time and the evening included a new virtual track that we made for the event with the help of our friends at The Ryedale Voices. The words to "An Irish Blessing" seemed particularly appropriate and can be heard, and viewed below.
The evening was rounded off by a few singalong numbers and some footage of one of our in-person soirees as an emotional reminder of the joy we get from singing, and socialising, together.