Blog Post

Through The Power of Singing We Stay Connected

It is the end of April, 2020 and it is a shockingly long time ago that our choristers and families have been together for what we now understand was the last in-person Monday-night rehearsal of the season. While there was definitely a great loss felt with the cancellation of rehearsals and opportunities to share our music, it did not take long to realize that this did not mean we would lose our sense of community. We would get through this by sticking together – and we will do it through singing, of course.

Monday-night rehearsals started up again! Thank you to the bravery of our Founding Artistic Director, Jackie Hawley, a self-proclaimed “not a techy person” determinedly and quickly shifted gears and using videoconferencing brought our choirs back together to rehearse, sing, and socialize.

Myself and fellow Choir Director, Leslie Bricker along with accompanists, Teresa van den Boogaard and Dian Wilkie, have developed engaging (Zoom) rehearsal materials using a variety of methods including screen sharing, props, call and response, rounds and more. Leslie and I attend each other’s rehearsals to provide assistance and we have learned from each other as to what works best in this new context. We are so grateful to be able to continue seeing and hearing the choristers and our colleagues, and these virtual rehearsals are truly a highlight in our week.” Jackie Hawley

In homes across the Ottawa region our choristers were able to continue with their vocal exercises, reading music, having some fun with repertoire, enjoying that special feeling of singing together, and seeing friends that were sharing the exact same experience at the same time.

As the weeks of physical distancing and self-isolation rolled on with no end in sight, Jackie Hawley and the Choral Education Team continued to add content and complexity to the rehearsals just as they would in a normal rehearsal setting. This included opportunities for the senior Cantiamo Girls choristers to take the lead in vocal strengthening exercises, and for role modelling and mentorship of some of the younger choristers who missed the support they had enjoyed during in-person rehearsal time.

On April 27th we were thrilled to invite two guest composers to participate in our virtual rehearsals! Dr. Lori-Anne Dolloff met with our Training Choir who are learning Lori’s composition, A Great Big Sea. A natural with children, Lori shared her inspiration and insight about her compositions, and happily answered questions and listened to comments about learning her piece.

Lori-Ann then also joined the Girls Apprentice Choir rehearsal who will be singing Lori’s three movement Planxty Kelly Suite. It was a very special experience for all of these young singers who got to “work with” the actual composer of a song they were singing.

That same evening, Dr. Andrea Ramsey also generously offered her time and met with our Cantiamo Girls Choir. Cantiamo has performed Andrea’s moving piece Letter from a Girl to the World, and is currently learning another piece by Andrea called Truth. Also a fabulous experience and one I am sure all of our choristers will remember.

With May just around the corner we are reminded of the national Music Monday event held annually on May 4th. Not one to dwell on things out of our control, Jackie Hawley along with all of our Choral Education Team is already at work creating a meaningful and joyful celebration for this day. While we will not be at the National Arts Centre this year and will miss the 300+voices of the massed choir, the Coalition for Music Education in Canada will still be hosting several virtual events across the country and Cantiamo will definitely be participating and singing the Music Monday anthem. There will also be an opportunity for the parents and families of our choristers to join in and be part of the event.

Kathy Goodsell, our Cantiamo Primary Choir Choral Director, recently shared this inspiring and uplifting story about her own mother’s experience with the power of singing.

“I have been sending my mother (85 years old) many music links to help her through this time of isolation. She just called, sounding in the best spirits I have heard in weeks, to tell me she had the most wonderful day of singing and music. She tuned in to your (Jackie Hawley) Hymn to Freedom teaching video and tried all the warm-ups and vocal exercises along with you. She said she watched and sang with you from start to finish and plans on opening that video every day. She was excited that her voice already felt stronger at the end of the teaching video.

We already understand the power of music and singing, but I’m still amazed to see how it can completely lift a person’s spirit and fill them with such energy, optimism and joy. I heard it in my mother’s voice.”

Nothing compares to the positive energy, good feelings and sense of community when Cantiamo sings together, and that we do miss deeply. And though it is still very unclear as to when we will be able to resume our regular rehearsals and share our music in performance, we do know that we WILL keep on singing.

“We can’t always choose the music life will play for us, but we can choose how we dance (or sing along) to it.” #cantiamosings