COVID-19 has at the very least put a major damper on a lot of events and group activities in Alberta. However there are some efforts to try and overcome the rules the pandemic has put in place.
Southern Accord, an all-women’s chorus who sing four-part a capella harmony, has kept up their meetings and practice by any means necessary in order to stay in tune. Spokesperson Carol Quan says they have followed COVID protocols by doing a lot of work via Zoom. Quan says they meet often to practise at the McNally Community Center (east of the Lethbridge Airport between Highways 4 and 5 in Lethbridge County) and have done that as well. They meet every Wednesday night. (Note: they are having a virtual open house Oct. 21; please see end of story for more information).
They have a lot of fun singing and one can tell from photos they enjoy each other’s company and there is a strong bond out there. However, they take the singing very seriously.
“We are unique in that we are a member of Sweet Adelines International,” explains Quan of the international organization which was founded in 1945 in Oklahoma. The purpose of the largest female singing group in the world is to not only entertain the public but to encourage and teach and develop women’s a cappella singing, musical prowess but to help foster relationships amongst the women. The southwest Alberta chorus became a member of Sweet Adelines in 1998. “This is not your great great Grandma's Sweet Adelines… sing mostly current music and are always striving to become better singers.”
Quan says they have coaches that come to them to help, provide advice and assistance to Southern Accord’s director Jill McLeod. They also have the advantage of having a lot of the Sweet Adelines tracks on line and through technology can do a lot of things with practice, teaching and coaching.
While there is still the tradition, passion and feel of the serious choirs, the Southern Accords is very technologically advanced. The pandemic hasn’t slowed members from the opportunity to honing their voices. They can practise on their own using the computer.
“We have the advantage that our music tracks are online,” says Quan of the four-part-a capalla songs. “I can go to a music track and I can hear my part or the other different parts which are there. I can listen to my part on computer and practise with that and as I get comfortable I can practice with the other three parts or I can hear the song without my part so there’s lots of ways to use that music to help us learn it. We can practice with that all the time on our own so we were already set up for on line things before COVID hit, so that’s kind of an advantage for us.”
However no matter what, not being able to be together on a regular basis hurts. Quan says that being in the same area under normal social distancing is always the best. Plus, having the last number of months where they were accustomed to playing on average concerts in a venue about once per month, to not doing that.
That is a disadvantage not being able to sing together and to perform as singers want to share that music and change people’s lives by wanting to make them feel something,” explains Quan. She says the other things is not being able to be physically positioned to practise under normal circumstances.
“We are fortunate to have a musical director who is technically very competent and very creative and so she is trying to bring in a lot of different ways of getting us engaged in our music so we Zoom (social media group meeting place); we tries to do some different fun things on Zoom; doing it in person when we could (pre-COVID) watching for us different programs.”
The group has been singing strong for more than a dozen years and while the technology has been a normal aspect for a while, they have been leaning on it a lot more with everything from singing to actual choreography. However, she adds those who don’t have suitable (if any) Wi-fi where they live, they do have other alternatives to keep all members engaged.
Quan noted they did meet in the summer with some definite difference in protocol.
“We did meet for a short period of time in the summer in person, in very small groups, wearing masks outside with lots of space between us which is tricky singing with the mask on,” she says with a laugh. As the weather has changed now and with the numbers increasing with COVID (in southwest Alberta), we will just keep an eye on that. We are very conscious about keeping our members safe.”
Quan says the Oct. 21 virtual open rehearsal, the appropriately titled: We’re Still Standing, is an opportunity to see if there is any potential singers out there and in her words to take a peek at what the Southern Accord members are doing. Of course, once someone makes the commitment to join, the protocol has changed a lot this year.
“We are hoping (when_ the people come to the open house they will get a taste what kind of music we do, how we are managing on Zoom and see if that fits for them, what we are trying to do is to be ready. “When we are able to sing we want to be able to work on our music, do a show, perform for group and make us happy. We know there are lots of people who are missing singing who aren’t able to do much with their singers,” explains Quan. “Singing just makes you happy, anything that can lift your spirits…”
Quan adds there are about 35 members from all around southwest Alberta including Coaldale, Milk River, Iron Springs and even one from Brooks to name a few. Quan says they range in ages from their twenties to seventies.
(We’re Still Standing is on October 21st from 7 to 8 p.m. on Zoom. To register or for more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Giulietta at 403 929-4441).