Of all the performing arts disciplines that have been most severely hard hit by the pandemic, it has been singing. Whether it be opera, musical theatre, cabaret or other genres, theatre, music halls and other venues have fallen silent. Another art form that depends on vocal performance is choral music. In our city, the premiere organization that specializes in that pursuit is the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Fortunately as other local artists and organizations have figured out methods to present shows and concerts in a safe fashion during these unprecedented times resulting from COVID-19, the ISC also found a way
Tuesday, the ISC presented a free, open-to-the public “Community Sing 2020” at which an audience of 115 people (who had to make reservations in advance), half of which were ISC singers, gathered in the rear parking lot of the Basile Opera Center on the city’s North Side. Socially distanced from one another, groups sat in circles drawn with chalk with all attendees wearing masks. During the 90 minute event, which took place under ideal weather conditions, the crowd either sang or just listened to songs that ranged from classical choral masterpieces, to the Justice Choral Songbook to patriotic tunes.
Following a welcome by ISC artistic director Dr. Eric Stark, the affable maestro conducted those assembled in singing Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus.” Even though overall sound of the singing was muffled by the masks that were worn by participants, it did not in any way lesson the vocal quality and enthusiams that informed it. Accompanying the communal singing was David Duncan on keyboards.
Other highlights of the program were ISC assistant artistic director conducting Mendelssohn’s “Watching Over Israel,” ISC conducting fellow Alejando Reyna who conducted Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” and ISC managing director, Liam Bonner a former opera singer perform a solo in Bach-Gounod’s “Ave Maria.”
There were several moments where I became misty-eyed but two in particular really affected me. Reminding me how much I missed collective experiences, especially live music events and reinforcing my sorrow at all the loss and pain inflicted by the world-wide pandemic, was the singing of “America the Beautiful” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Near the end of the concert it was announced that the ISC’s annual “Festival of Carols” which is a Midwest holiday tradition will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a special broadcast of a virtual performance on MyINDT-TV on Monday, December 21 at 7 p.m. The performance will feature Indianapolis native and world-renowned soprano Angela Brown.
I can’t underestimate how much I enjoyed being in the community of other choral music fans. Having sung with the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus (tenor section) for six years early in its history, I am more than just a fan. So I was especially gratified that ISC successfully organized and implemented this opportunity to bring people at a time when many of us desperately miss human connection and inspiration that derives from combined human voices.
For information about the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir visit indychoir.org.