Friday, June 5, 2020

Windham Chamber Singers perform virtual concert for graduating seniors

By Elizabeth Richards

Traditions are important to the Windham Chamber Singers, and one highly anticipated tradition is their Senior Concert, where they perform their tour program and honor members who are graduating. The tradition lived on this year, though in a very different format. 
On Thursday, May 28, the senior concert video premiered on the WCS You Tube Channel.

The Windham Chamber Singers performed
 a concert again this year for graduating
 seniors at Windham High School, but
 because of COVID-19 concerns,
 the concert was videotaped and
 premiered on the group’s You Tube
The video included solos from some of the senior members, individual recognition of each senior in the group, photos set to music that was part of their tour program, some special “high fives,” and a virtual choir performance by the group, singing one of their tour selections “I will Sing You the Stars.”

Dr. Richard Nickerson, Director of Choral Music for Windham High School, said it was important to him to do something that would not only honor seniors but all the members of the choir. 
Since school let out in mid-March, Nickerson said, the group has met regularly on Wednesdays to check in and connect, continuing to lean on each other even while apart.
“The news that we weren’t going to be coming back to school was extremely devastating because we had so many plans in the works for the spring,” said Aiden Day, a senior and the 2019-2020 president of the chamber singers.
Though difficult to process, he said, both as an officer and a senior, they quickly regrouped and came together for a Zoom rehearsal the very first Wednesday after school was out.  They worked hard together to create the virtual choir by recording their parts individually.
“Dr. Nick found a way to string them together and produce a really beautiful sound,” he said. “I’m really proud of how hard we’ve worked.”
Denali Dieumegard, 2019-20 vice president and 2020-21 president, said that the technical aspects of recording her video for the virtual choir weren’t difficult, but the emotional side was trickier.
“I think for everybody it was very emotional to sing that without standing next to our friends and fellow chamber singers,” she said.
 “Our philosophy during this pandemic has been let’s focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do,” Nickerson said.  Putting together a virtual choir performance was one of those things.  It was a difficult process, but very therapeutic, Nickerson said, allowing him to process everything that has happened and the losses the group experienced this spring. 
It also helped him remember how amazing the first half of the year was, he said.
The night before the video premiere, the Chamber Singers upheld another tradition.
“The night before the senior concert every year is a big night for us,” Nickerson said.  It’s when the group elects officers for the following year, and seniors share what their Chamber Singers experience has meant to them.  “It’s a chance for them to really say how they’re feeling,” Nickerson said. 
Even though they had to meet via Zoom this year, it was quite a moving time, he said.
Day said the senior concert video was special, particularly the last high-fives because it included so many people they had worked with over the years.
“It was really overwhelming to watch,” he said. “It just really was the closure I needed to move on and celebrate the end of my career in Chamber Singers.”
Nickerson agreed.
 “High fiving is a big thing with us,” Nickerson said.  “It gives me eye contact and at least a second or two where I get to look into the eyes of each individual singer no matter how many there are in the choir.  It’s kind of our moment to connect before we sing,” he said.
The video helped make up for some of the losses they’ve experienced this year, Dieumegard said. 
“We’re really sad to see the senior class go. It definitely was a nice send off for them. It is hard without our usual traditions because that kind of does finalize it,” she said. 
According to Day, it was a nice honor.
 “It was just a really nice tribute for us seniors, and I’m really grateful for that,” said Day.
Nickerson said it was exciting to be able to see how many people were watching and follow along with the comments.
“I think we used technology the best way we could,” he said.
An added bonus to the online format is that anyone who missed it still has an opportunity to watch the video, which is posted on the Windham Chamber Singers You Tube Channel. <

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