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Via Choralis community choir back on stage in Sidney for the first time in two years

St. Elizabeth’s Church will host the Saanich Peninsula community choir May 1 at 2:30 p.m.
Via Choralis, here with most of its members, will perform its first public show in more than two years on May 1 at Sidney’s St. Elizabeth’s Church on Third Street. (Photo courtesy of Nick Fairbanks)

A Saanich Peninsula community absent from the stage for more than two years returns to it next month.

Via Choralis, which performs an eclectic repertoire, will perform May 1 at Sidney’s St. Elizabeth’s Church on Third Street with the show starting at 2:30 p.m. The scheduled show bears the apt name of Together Again and artistic director Nicholas Fairbank said the choir is really looking forward to presenting some music to the public. The show in May builds on performances to residents at Sidney All Care Residence in April and rehearsals that had started in February.

The members of Via Choralis did their best to remain connected through the internet during the first 18 months of being unable to sing and rehearse during the pandemic.

“We had some meetings and some rehearsals via Zoom, but this did not work for all members, and the rehearsal experience done this way is very much one-sided because Zoom only allows one speaker (singer) at a time,” he said.

The group also made three virtual choir videos, which saw each participant record a video singing their part of the piece using a pre-recorded backing track. Fairbanks then mixed all the videos together to produce the final product. “But again this is not really a satisfactory musical experience, just a stop-gap to keep people doing something musical while we waited for the pandemic to be over,” he said.

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In August of 2021, the choir was finally able to safely sing together again — outdoors and wearing masks. “We met once a week for a few weeks in a renovated barn at a farm in Deep Cove which belongs to one of our Altos,” Fairbanks said. After it became too dark and too cool, the group moved indoors to their usual rehearsal venue for the remainder of fall.

“Originally we had intended to have a concert performance-ready in March but with the arrival of the Omicron variant, we stopped rehearsing in mid-December for Christmas and did not start up again until the third week of February,” Fairbanks said. But the group was not idle during this hiatus and recruited more singers to replace those who had dropped out or were not willing to return for health and safety reasons. “So when we started rehearsing on Feb. 21, we had another six or seven singers, which was very encouraging.”

Fairbanks acknowledged that getting back into good choral habits and techniques has been a challenge for some. “(It) has been a steep climb back to attain the level of singing that we had reached in 2020.”

This said, it has also been a joy to sing together again and the choir looks forward to its upcoming performances, said Fairbanks.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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