Chorus program hopes to move forward from “struggle” 2020

Othelia Han, Arts& Entertainment reporter

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, people around the world faced many struggles. Students at Mount Pisgah had struggles of their own with extra-curricular activities.

Chorus was one of the hardest activities to maintain because at the beginning of the school year, there was no singing.

Ever since summer 2020, upper school chorus teacher Audriana Johnson has had to follow a scientific study specific to the aerosols which the chorus produces when it sings.

The study was specifically targeted at how they affect singing and playing instruments, in addition to theatre and dance, so that researchers could give recommendations to the arts community on what would be safe to do during the pandemic.

For Mount Pisgah chorus students, the recommendation was to not sing at all.

“I had to wait about six weeks or so before I even considered singing with the choir, just to kind of see what was going to happen with COVID and if we were going to be in person or virtual and so in late September or early October, we started trying to
sing outside, and at the time, the recommendation was still, even outside to be six feet apart [with] masks,” Johnson said.

The singing restriction was not the only hardship that the chorus faced. “Six feet…that’s really far and then you have masks on [you] that muddle yourself even more. And you’re also outside, so the sound just kind of goes out, but nothing contains it so it was really hard to hear.”

After the first semester, as the COVID-19 situation got worse, so did the reality of singing.

“[It went from] bad to worse in January and at that point, we had tried singing inside in the Blackbox theater before Christmas a couple of times. Even after that, we went virtual so at that point, I honestly was like, we’re done now, I tried. It’s really hard since everybody was stressed by life and singing wasn’t fun.”

In order to relieve some of the stress students faced, Johnson made a poll to ask them what they wanted to achieve during the pandemic.

“What was really interesting was that the students didn’t want to sing, but the kinds of things that they wanted to spend time on were stress, mindfulness, and growing spiritually, so spending time in prayer. They wanted to have fun together and build community.”

As a result, Mondays turned into planning days to plan out the students’ weeks and prioritize their goals. On Wednesdays, the students practiced several different techniques of stress management, such as meditation and walking. On Thursdays, the students read devotionals, did prayer requests, and spent time together to discuss.

Despite the unexpected and unfortunate events last year, 2021 has been filled with hope for Johnson and her chorus class.

“As I continue to monitor the COVID study, the current recommendations are to still have masks, and they still recommend sitting outside. Singing inside, they recommend three feet of distance. So the good news is that I ordered the singers masks and they’re on the way, and the fact that we can have a chorus class.”

The chorus will be able to perform at the upcoming Concert Under the Stars in October and the Carols in December.

“It’s still not going to be back to normal, but definitely a lot closer to normal than last year, so we’re very excited.”

The chorus is also looking forward to performing at the Southern Star Music Festival, the competition that they usually participate in every year.

“Some parts of it will be different, but we’re a lot closer to a normal year.”