In these uncertain times, creativity and flexibility are critical to navigating a situation none of us have experienced before. When we had to stop rehearsals at the beginning of the pandemic, two of the questions in our minds were ‘how can we continue to rehearse in this situation which no-one in the world has encountered before? What is the best way to keep our choristers and audience safe while offering a compelling musical experience?’
We canvassed many venues in our search for a solution for both rehearsals and a possible performance later in the year. The venue needed to be big enough to accommodate our 80-strong choir, orchestra and a good-sized audience while ensuring COVID-safe distancing. We needed to be able to clean it efficiently under COVID guidelines as well as performing the necessary health checks quickly and easily before people entered the hall. The location needed to be central, with parking readily available and good access.
For our potential performance of Brahms Requiem, we originally considered the Old Museum and St John’s Cathedral, and while both are venues we and audiences enjoy, neither were large enough to fit a choir as well as an orchestra and an audience under current COVID restrictions.
Then we realised, we could potentially use Kelvin Grove State College Auditorium! Not only does the school have a long-standing affinity with the performing arts, it is large enough, flexible, and acoustically resonant enough for our needs. We had successfully rehearsed Israel in Egypt in this venue with Handel specialist Graham Abbott and the orchestra last year and found it a really good space for music.
We are enjoying the acoustic as we rehearse and get our vocal chops back! Although the necessary distancing is a challenge for everyone, it’s sharpening our listening and ensemble skills. What a luxury, too, to perform in the space where you have been rehearsing for weeks! We are also enjoying having time to refine and get to know Brahms Requiem even better than we knew it before “lockdown” happened – it’s like spending time with a much loved, long-time friend!
We are working with the required guidelines as we plan for the concert on November 8, to ensure that everyone in the venue is safe. The space will be comfortable for the audience, with specially tailored seating, good ventilation, and a sense of space, yet good connection to the music.
From no rehearsals, to starting with a small group with the rest of the choir on Zoom, and now tutti rehearsals in this unique venue, we are thrilled to be making music again in numbers that are close to our usual strength of choristers. In our first rehearsal back the excitement and joy in the room was tangible.
We are grateful to even be rehearsing when so many choirs around the world are silent right now, and we are so looking forward to seeing you at our concert.
Our thanks go to the Principal and staff of Kelvin Grove State College for giving us access to their wonderful hall, and rescuing our performance plans.