FourEffect’s attempt to get back to rehearsing
We have been a quartet for six years now and fortunately live at the most a 20-minute drive from each other. We usually rehearse Monday mornings, which is a great way to start our week!
Quartetting has been important to each of us over that time and has seen us through some tricky times, so it has become an invaluable part of our lives. We often joke that it has kept us sane, so not to be able to meet and sing together left a gaping hole.
Rehearsing during lockdown
When lockdown happened we continued to meet on Mondays via Zoom. However, life gets in the way and trying to find a quiet place with various family members at home all the time is hard. Wifi in the garden can be patchy, wifi itself can be patchy, husbands have meetings, kids have school and the cats and dogs want to get involved!
Our meetings turned out to be more of a social Zoom chat which was great, but we missed the singing. We recorded a snippet on the Acapella app, but it wasn’t that successful and we soon gave up. We definitely have a new found admiration for long distanced quartets!
When the rules changed, allowing us to meet in small groups in the garden, we jumped at the opportunity.
Initially we met in Lisa’s garden with the garden chairs correctly spaced and brought our own water bottles. That initial meeting was so wonderful. To be able to get back together even though the singing left a little to be desired, was amazing and really didn’t matter.
We have certainly found socially distanced singing interesting! To start with, it felt odd actually singing properly. We’ve been doing Zoom meetings with chorus which is a fantastic way to keep going, but you are singing by yourself and no-one can hear you, except the family which is fine for the leads, but bari?
Initially our voices felt a bit rusty, but who wants to bother warming up when we want to sing. So having warmed up perfunctorily we moved quickly onto singing.
Then we had to remember our songs and how to sing them not only outside, but socially distanced from each other. Even so, it felt so good to sing harmonies again.
Rehearsing the garden is interesting. It’s amazing how the wildlife tries to join in. Flies love mouths (mostly Liz’s), midges love heads (again mostly Liz’s) and the birds join in – yes they really did. Neighbours listen and applaud whilst taking in their washing and neighbours sons start drumming.
Positioning can also be a challenge, what with trying to stay socially distanced, some of us wanting to be in the sun to keep warm and some wanting the shade as it’s too hot. Oh and not too close to the edge of that wall because we don’t want anyone to fall off it. Pollen can also play havoc with your voice, “no, it’s not a Covid cough, it’s something I’ve inhaled!” Wind not only blows your voice away but also blows your music away. But despite all these “problems”, we are back singing which more than makes up for them.
Getting used to trying to hear each other at distance is hard, especially for the tenor and baritone as they end up much further apart. But we are getting there and hopefully when we can stand near each other again and indoors our tuning will be spot on! We’ve been amazed at how well the phone records from such a distance and this will be a great tool to monitor progress.
We are taking this opportunity to brush up our repertoire songs which is something that has often been put on the back burner when practising for contest. So now the first flush of getting back together has calmed down, we are doing our warm ups properly and even our straw therapy! Mind you, we still seem to spend a large proportion of our rehearsal having a good natter over a cup of tea!
Experimenting with PPE
As a bit of an experiment we have tried singing with visors and we were surprisingly happy with the sound we produced! Initially we found that our own voices were so prominent (from the effect of the visor) this resulted in synch issues, but as we got used to the sound and then listened more closely to the other parts the synchronisation improved greatly. The differences in sound of recordings that we have taken with and without visors were really indistinguishable. Another interesting finding was that there was no misting or spittle left on the inside of the visors showing us that we really did not release any saliva when singing during the experiment. Could wearing visors be a step to getting back to group singing?
Liz, Anita, Deb and Lisa
It is with sadness that since writing this piece and just before submitting it, the UK government guidance has clarified the position of singing groups. We need to stress that we have been very strict about social distancing whilst singing and now have to wait for further government guidelines.