Diary of a Choir in Lockdown. 2020

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.

From a student’s perspective. Izzy filming and singing along with me in Harmony. Mish takes the lead role.

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

Photo taken by Mish Aminoff.

Mish Aminoff has published a photo documentary of our time in lockdown. Please check it out.

https://www.mishaminoff.com/behind-the-scenes-with-the-london-lucumi-choir-covid-update/?fbclid=IwAR006YQSXXu08iA_bkJ1GC5gYLgnfuvbNYf9SpBWXl-0x32zJw2wrcydsMA

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.

Highgate Festival hosted by Village Raw Magazine

Mish Aminoff and I singing live from 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:

On Zoom, meeting online with Izzy from Sheffield. we are a group of six in the top left hand corner. Photo Mish Aminoff
Getting ready to sing from my home in North London.

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.

Joining Choir members, Queen’s House and Laban Trinity online
Daniela working things out remotely with Peter Adjaye and Randolph Matthews who are on location in Queen’s House. Greenwich.

Randolph Matthews on location

Being projected via zoom into the Queen’s House and Looped!
Peter Adjaye, listening to us singing Olokun from our homes.
The Installation. The Armada Portraits. Choir being heard in the background
Online Concert introduced by Grace Gottardello

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.

https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/london-lucumi-choir

Natalie in Greenwich 23-08-2020

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!

About oshunschild 20 Articles
I am a London based Iyalosha, crowned with Ochun; who is passionate about the arts I Grew up in London, mixed background, third generation musician. I went to study music in Cuba in 1986, since then I have done many things. Was one of the first Salsa Dance Teachers in London in 1989, before it became the sport of a million suburban housewives; formed Orchestra Salsa Y Ache in late 80's, toured and did many gigs for seven years; then Salsasonica which recorded with Buena Vista's Guajiro Mirabal. Have taught Cuban Music to children. I have also organised small trips to Cuba in the past before the rise of tourism there. Have written about Latin Music, and I am passionate about singing and encouraging everyone to sing. I formally ran " singing for the terrified" at the Mary Ward Centre, in addition to a world music choir. I Have been a practitioner of Santeria since 1986. Between the years 1991 and 2005 I received My Elekes, My Warriors and Olokun. In 2005 I received my Ikofafun ( Ifa) and on February 6 2006 I became initiated as a Priestess of Ochun in Luyano, Havana. My Branch of the religion is La Pimienta. I was born from Obatala and Yemaya. Ocha Inle and Omi Laibo are my Iyalorishas. Currently I run and direct the London Lucumi Choir which sings Afro Cuban songs to the Orisha and other Afro-Cuban genres. I have also become a celebrant qualified to perform marriage ceremonies, renewal of vows, baby naming ceremonies and other family based ceremony and ritual.