When Oregon largely shut down in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, Portland-based LGBTQ+ chorus leaders scrambled to find a way to stay connected. They created a summer program to keep singers together — and to help learn a common repertoire, particularly for when it is safe to gather again. Just as important, organizers wanted to build community and connection in such an isolating time.
Once a month this summer, choristers from around Oregon gathered via Zoom for a “Community Sing,” a virtual guided practice session of protest and social justice songs. Directors brought songs, in simple arrangement and in the public domain or donated by the arranger, so the music could be shared and used in any situation.
While the limitations of Zoom “rehearsals” are challenging — microphone and compression issues make it impossible to actually sing “together” — participants report unexpected benefits.
“I’ve been overwhelmed (in the best way possible) with how much our singers have engaged and enjoyed these monthly gatherings,” said Amir Shirazi, director of Transpose PDX.
Built into the rehearsals is a time for breakout sessions where singers who wish to can visit in small groups before reconvening for a final song.
“It’s been a treat to get to know singers in other choruses without the barrier of distance,” Shirazi said, “and it’s been so meaningful to connect and practice resilience in historically — and too often presently — marginalized communities. Connecting and building have been such a gift, and I’m so excited to continue.”
Organizers include the Artistic Directors of the six GALA choruses that perform in Portland (Bridging Voices, Confluence, NW Queer Chorus, Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Portland Lesbian Choir, and Transpose PDX.) All LGBTG+ choir members are welcome, and practice sessions have included members of Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene and the Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus. Information on GALA choruses can be found here: https://galachoruses.org/
The organizers have surveyed participants throughout the summer and are deciding how best to move forward this fall. Stay tuned for updates.