The University of Washington Chorale has found an unlikely place to practice. Once a week, eight of the 60-member singing group meet, standing 6 feet apart, in a campus parking garage for 30 precious minutes. Despite the sounds of passing cars and some machinery whirring nearby, the sound they can make together — in person — is wonderful.
“It’s been a really strange realization that the thing that we love to do the most — singing — could actually be a super-spreading event,” said Giselle Wyers, chair of the UW’s voice and choral programs.
“But we know it’s temporary, and if we take appropriate measures, we can do it safely.”
The practice location in Padelford Garage was approved by the UW’s Environmental Health and Safety team, which determined the location had sufficient air flow, and laid out a procedure for an eight-person, masked and physically distanced half-hour practice.
Wyers said the students have really appreciated these in-person practice sessions, as their classes are still largely virtual. The garage rehearsals started in September 2020, and she was surprised to find that all of the singers who joined in the fall have stayed. But these small rehearsals are different.
“This choir is usually 60 people. So it demands tremendous independence and preparation musically, with only two people on each part.”
Wyers feels grateful to have this space when most of the campus is shuttered. There have been no COVID illnesses among her students, and along with other UW choral groups, they were able to practice and perform an online ‘Winter Wishes’ concert in December 2020.
The music in this video is a traditional South African Sesotho wedding song, called “TAEMANE”, arranged by Ralf Schmitt and Marshell Lombard.