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Arts

The pandemic gave choristers lemons. In YK, they’re Makin’ Lemonade.


The Yellowknife Choral Society has completed its first live performance in two and a half years: Makin’ Lemonade.

The show’s title, the society stated in promoting the event, acknowledged that “life has been littered with lemons” since early 2020, particularly if you like to sing.

With group singing an early casualty of the NWT’s pandemic-related restrictions, Aurora Chorealis and the Fireweed Children’s Chorus rehearsed over Zoom. Many people singing at once in an online video conference works as well as you would expect.

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“Zoom is horrible for the lag,” said Lisa Rayner, a soprano for Aurora Chorealis. “We couldn’t sing together.”

The singers persisted.

“I need music in my life,” said Rayner, who took a break from the choir as Covid-19 set in, only to return.

“It’s my stress relief. When I thought I was too exhausted for choir, I actually needed it as my soothing. Not singing was no longer an option.”

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The choral society moved from virtual rehearsals to a virtual concert on New Year’s Eve in 2021.

“It was so impactful,” said Rayner. “I was able to send the link to my family in Ontario and my sister in London, England. Being able to share that with my family was so great.”

However, a virtual concert does not compare to a live event.

On Saturday, an emotional performance at Yellowknife’s NACC included songs about hope, despair, isolation, and suicide.

“I was afraid I would be overcome by emotion singing the songs, because they’re very powerful,” said Lorne Gushue, a bass singer.

“It’s been so long, and you can hear the audience – the intake of breath, the gasps.

“I was worried. But you get that out in rehearsal so you can give to the audience and not break down.”

The audience cheered the children’s joyful tune about making lemonade from life’s lemons. Some wiped tears away during an Aurora Chorealis interpretation of Beethoven’s letter to his brothers while losing his hearing.

“It was so beautiful to be part of something so powerful again,” one audience member told Cabin Radio.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed music to feel a part of something, but I’m leaving tonight’s performance with a very full heart.”

‘Not all choirs made it’

The singers said their board of directors and conductor, Margo Nightingale, had brought them through the pandemic.

“We have such a great conductor,” said Lise Picard, an alto singer. “Margo is amazing, and that’s why we’re here. That, and we didn’t want to quit.”

The Yellowknife Choral Society was one of the first choir groups in Canada to return to in-person rehearsals after the pandemic.

“It was great to be in each other’s company again,” said Gushue. “The first time we sang together, I broke into tears.”

Modifications for those in-person rehearsals remain: wearing masks, relocating from a local church to a high school gymnasium to allow for social distancing, and shortening rehearsals to limit air exchange.

However, the choristers are thankful to be rehearsing at all.

“Choirs all over the world are struggling, trying to figure out how to stay alive. Not all of them made it,” said Gushue.

“Choral singing in Yellowknife made it through the pandemic,” remarked Hermina Joldersma, president of the choral society and an alto singer in the group.

“We survived. In a few unexpected ways, we even thrived.”

The society will take a break over the summer and return to rehearsals in August. Yellowknife residents interested in joining are encouraged to watch the group’s website for information.

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