To all intents and purposes 2020 has been a very weird time for all, not to mention musicians and artists, and also not forgetting community choirs. There has been so much documentation in the past regarding Choirs, singing and the health benefits. To come to terms with the fact that if we sing together inside with no social distancing for a long length of time during this pandemic, we can potentially be spreading the virus and even cause fatalities, has been devastating.
Like many Choir directors, it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that we were going to have to change how we work. I worked out a way on Zoom to provide a point of connection and to teach some songs, however it was completely different to the coming and singing together experience. I could only manage one hour at a time on Zoom.
I found a way to use call and response with some of the other members who were more confident of unmuting themselves and harmonies were tricky to teach. But as long as we all understood that this zoom/online experience was going to be different and not have any unrealistic expectations, it seemed to work in bringing us together, motivating us to at least sing and rehearse at home, and keep learning. The cons of this set up in addition to not singing all together is that we cannot rehearse with the drums. The pros included being able to reach people geographically distant like Astrid in Canada and Izzy in Sheffield. People who couldn’t reach us because they suffer from various illnesses were also able to connect, so even if we get together in the future, I am really happy to do the occasional zoom to be all inclusive.
Photo By Mish Aminoff
Mish Aminoff has published a photo documentary of our time in lockdown. Please check it out.
As lockdown relaxed we slowly began to meet outside. The first event was two of us performing live for Highgate Festival. This was followed by getting together in small groups of six in the Garden.
We also prepared and delivered a sound installation for Queen’s House in Greenwich, in addition to our online gig and workshop for the Maritime Museum to commemorate and mark International Slavery Remembrance Day.
ARMADA PORTRAITS SOUND INSTALLATION:
It is explained in the Queen’s House that the Sound Installation is called ” A Proposal for Radical Hospitality. It was Engineered by Peter Adjaye, and Directed by Randolph Matthews. In addition to singing our own stuff over zoom which was projected into Queen’s House, Recorded and blended with other sounds, we also improvised, repeated sounds and triggering words which were out of our comfort zones, and we sung a song, the People’s anthem, written by Peter Adjaye. Some of our members were projected from their own houses from as far as Canada. it is currently a sound Installation of around an hour long that you can all visit by booking online.
We worked really hard to produce a virtual concert, online content, and workshop for the Maritime Museum which you can view above. To hear Natalie Cooper’s powerful prayer to the ancestors by Ayoka Wiles- Quinones from the book ” I hear Olofi’s Song‘. Scroll to the bottom of the link below. Natalie also led the procession on the 23rd August 2020 and our prayer to Egun was blasted out across the Thames to pay homage to those that were murdered during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The London Lucumi Base backs onto Queen’s Woods In North London. In July, Daniela ( me!) got involved in a protest to stop the felling of Oaks on ancient woodland instigated by the insurance company AXA. Our campaign led to a respite of a year. We were inspired to meet and sing in the woods to the trees and protestors in August. It was the first time of meeting up in person in five long months! We were a little rusty but happy!
We worked on a virtual Choir Video OGUERE:
And we are currently working in a smaller project for a sequence for Babalu Aye. I will post when it is ready!
Finally although we continue to mainly rehearse on zoom. We decided under the current restrictions that allow us to rehearse in Covid safe environment to meet once a month out in the woods. Our first session was in October 2020 and we rehearsed for the first time with the drums. It is getting cold in the UK. However, as someone once said. ” there is no such thing as bad weather just bad decisions in what to wear” so unless it is raining or we go through a second lockdown, we are continuing to rehearse for an hour or so outdoors, socially distanced and we promise not to mingle!