Survival of Choir During COVID-19


Andrea Lopez, Co News and Special Projects Editor

Everyone’s life has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. We all have stories to tell about the opportunities that we have lost due to precautionary restrictions. Some groups at Middletown South have been able to make innovative changes to meet health guidelines, while others have been struggling to provide students with the same experience that they would have had before the pandemic hit. How has the choir department at South adapted to our new half-virtual environment?

Along with the rest of South’s courses this year, choir classes switched to a half virtual, half in-person setting, and recently, to a fully virtual setting. During the hybrid schedule virtual students would mute their mics and follow along with the in-person class as Mrs. Kaster, Middletown South’s choir director, directed vocal warmups and practices. When Middletown South is entirely virtual, students have been practicing the pieces on their own and submitting a recording of their voice to Mrs. Kaster. The inability to have the entire choir practice together in school has made it more difficult for students to learn the music, but they are working hard to make up for it. 

On October 17th, the choir was able to have an open rehearsal on the football field at South, which Mrs. Kaster creatively called a “Social Distan-SING.” At this event, the choir stood socially distanced with masks on and performed three songs they had been working on in class while their families sat in the audience. This casual mini-concert was the perfect way to bring everybody together to have fun and feel refreshed after so many months without a performance. 

The Songbirds, Middletown South’s a capella group, has also been able to meet in person after school. They welcomed new members to the group and thus far have had one in-person rehearsal. Typically, the Songbirds would meet a couple of times a week, during block 3 of the school day or after school.

In the past, many South choir members have taken advantage of the opportunity to join the All-Shore Chorus. This has advanced the audition choir that consists of about one hundred of the most talented vocalists from Monmouth and Ocean Counties. They host auditions, two months of rehearsals, and one or two concerts each winter. Usually, the audition process is in person in front of two panels of judges and consists of three parts: scales, tonal memory, and a quartet. This year, All-Shore has switched to a virtual audition platform, in which auditionees can now submit videos of their auditions. They have also removed the tonal memory part of the audition, since it requires an in-person audition, and are instead requiring an acapella solo for evaluation. Tonal memory is infamously the most difficult part of the audition, and many auditionees are relieved that it has been removed. Instead of doing auditions in person, auditionees can now submit videos of their auditions. Franny Stix, an All-Shore Choir auditionee, commented about the new audition process: “Since it is all virtual, you do not have to worry about messing up, because you can take as many videos as you want until you get a great one. Also, I know some people have audition anxiety…so it is nice to be able to sing the music in the comfort of your own home.” 

At first, the audition deadline was November 2nd, but it was then pushed back to November 18th, only to be rescheduled once more until December 3rd. This is all too familiar to choir students who were auditioning for New Jersey All-State Chorus this past spring; the audition deadline was pushed back several times until the program was eventually unable to commence due to COVID-19 restrictions. All-Shore Chorus auditionees are crossing their fingers that this time, All-Shore Chorus will be able to occur.