Amid the ever-changing landscape as COVID-19 sweeps across the world, Houston Chamber Choir is tackling the challenge by going online. Despite having the remainder of their season cancelled, they've been pressing on by providing a daily broadcast at noon titled "With One Accord." In it, Founder and Artistic Director Bob Simpson gives a brief history of each day's selection followed by a recording from one of the choir's previous performances.
"It’s designed to be a brief moment during the day to come together, despite our physical separation, to experience the power of music," Simpson said. "Rather than sitting back waiting to have it all happen, we wanted to take some initiative in the soul nourishing qualities of music that sometimes get pushed aside in our hectic lives. It’s a chance to get to a deeper point where music can be even more valued and see how much we need it - even when we get back to the usual schedule."
"I’ve selected music that I think sets the right mood for the emotional state we’re all in. Some of the music is uplifting and joyous, and it reminds us to count our blessings and be happy. Other selections remind us to take a break and feel the calm that washes over us as we sing. It will be something that enriches our lives and gives us a moment to pause despite everything going on," he added.
Songs so far have ranged from sacred music like Johann Sebastian Bach's "Gloria" to secular hits like Dolly Parton's "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" and have lasted roughly 10 minutes in length. Upcoming performances will include Billy Joel’s "And So It Goes," Daniel J. Knaggs’ "To Everything A Season" and Bach's "Dona Nobis Pacem," among others.
Regarding his song choices, especially the Knaggs piece, he said, "Houston Chamber Choir sings a wide variety of music, and this seemed like a good choice. It talks about there being a time to reap and a time to sew. This is a season for us as well. Each time we experience times of trial, we also experience times of joy, so we look to great things ahead despite our momentary crisis."
It's an inspirational message indeed. Another nugget is that all the selections were recorded during live performances. It's as close to being in a performance hall that could be replicated during the new normal everyone is facing during this pandemic - flaws and all.
"There are coughs and sneezes and the occasional distraction, but they're all live performances. It’s nice to remember when we were sitting next together and having the pleasure of someone coughing during the softest moment of the entire piece," Simpson joked.
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"With One Accord" is just one response from many arts groups across the city, nation and world to address the changes COVID-19 has forced upon us. Houston Press is following the trend and will continue to keep readers up to date on how they can still enjoy arts and culture.
"We decide that we wanted to play a role in making art a part of people's lives even if they can’t come to the concert hall. If they can’t come to us, we’ll come to them," Simpson summarized. "There’s a special communion between the choir and the audience. The choir is singing the text written by others with its own instrument - their voice. The communication of that text from one to another is a magical experience, even under normal circumstances. That communion is in great need right now. The fact that our recordings are available over the Internet and people can receive it in their living room, it suggests we will get through this. There will be a new day coming."
Houston Chamber Choir has a playlist lined up through March 31. At that time, the organization will assess the situation and make a determination if they will record future podcasts. They simultaneously are working to plan their 25th season, which follows fresh on the heels of clenching this year's Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
To listen to With One Accord, visit houstonchamberchoir.org. Daily podcasts are uploaded at noon.