Not even a pandemic can keep the SRC Community Chorus from its annual winter concert. The chorus, celebrating its 15th anniversary, presents its online concert Home for the Holidays – Virtually Unplugged. All donors to the SRC Foundation’s #GivingSPOONday fundraiser on December 1, regardless of how they wish their money to be used, will receive a private YouTube link to the concert accessible through any device which connects to the internet.
Those interested in the concert can donate online or send a check to the SRC Foundation, 23235 N. Co. Hwy. 22, Canton, IL, 61520. Information on the #GivingSPOONday campaign and a link to donate may be found at src.edu/givingtuesday.
“It’s been tough for the SRC Community Chorus this year,” said Carol Davis, artistic director since the group’s inception in December 2005. “Performing artists must perform, but 2020 has offered few opportunities to do so. Because of the pandemic, we re-scheduled our Disney revue for August 2021, but we felt strongly about offering an alternative to our live 2020 winter concert for our extremely gifted performers, for our many faithful patrons, and to continue our tradition of establishing named endowed scholarships for SRC students.”
Home for the Holidays is that alternative. SRC Foundation Director Colin Davis suggested presenting the 2020 concert electronically. While the task seemed monumental at first, the exciting idea took off, and over 70 performers, musicians, and technicians have donated their talents to create the wide-ranging holiday concert. The performers range from age six to sixty and beyond.
THE JOYS AND TRIALS
The first step was to contact all those who had performed in recent winter concerts by email to gauge their interests and seek their ideas for performance pieces. The initial responses showed promise. With that group of base performers, the project could certainly happen, but there was potential for even more.
“Because it’s the 15th anniversary of the Chorus and with the electronic format, we had the opportunity to reach out to past as well as present Chorus members to submit electronic recordings,” said Colin Davis. “We not only received interest from former members who had moved away, but from individuals who had yet to become a part of the Chorus. We were now ready for Phase 1.”
Pastor Micah Garnett of Trinity Lutheran Church in Canton had been utilizing virtual music in his online church services. When he learned of the project, Pastor Garnett quickly volunteered to engineer two virtual, full-chorus numbers. Garnett created master recordings of “The Hallelujah Chorus” and “Under Winter Moon.” The links to these master recordings were then sent out to chorus members who recorded themselves at home and submitted them back to Garnett by mid-October. He then blended all the individual recordings together to create a full virtual chorus.
“Creating a virtual number is much more complicated than it might seem,” said Carol Davis. “Several of our members commented on how strange it sounded to only hear themselves singing their own parts. They will be greatly surprised when they hear the final product.”
Besides the challenges of the video itself, Chorus staff worked with attorneys to make certain that copyright laws were followed and with the performers to make certain that each submission followed pandemic guidelines.
“The guidelines presented a challenge we’d not encountered before,” Davis said. “Some performers had to use wide angle lens cameras so they could be six feet apart but appear closer together. We asked anyone recording at First Christian Church to arrive no sooner than five minutes before their designated time, wear their masks right up until they sang and replace the masks immediately afterwards. We also sanitized the microphones, mic stands, pianos, and chairs after each performance and then sprayed the air with Lysol.”
Safety was the number one concern. “But musicians and theatre people are very good at ad libbing,” she laughed.
Phase 2 includes a variety of solos, duets, or small group pieces, comedy sketches, instrumentals, poetry readings, holidays stories and other creative performances that fit under the themes of the holidays, winter, love and peace. Some of the submissions were original compositions or writings.
“We were blown away by the number and variety of offerings,” Colin Davis said. “We have almost 50 videos and not one duplicate. My father, John Davis, has been directing the winter chorus concert since its inception. While he will gladly return to the podium next winter, I think he’s enjoyed being a performer this year. Some of the videos will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but all will bring the true meaning of the holidays into your home this season.”
Colin edited the entire concert by adding graphics, creating visuals, including sound effects, and blending in photos from the Chorus’s 15 years of concerts, revues, plays, and musicals. The creation of Home for the Holidays by all the performers, musicians, and technicians has required hundreds of hours to create and takes over two hours to view in entirety.
“The advantage of a virtual concert is that you can watch whenever you wish, for as long as you wish, and then return to watch favorites again and again,” said Carol Davis. “The joy of this concert is that we can continue to appreciate one another’s talents and reach an expanded audience. Plus, the Giving Tuesday donations will allow us to complete our current scholarship, the David L. Bishop Memorial Scholarship in 2020 as planned.”
The SRC Community Chorus was formed in 2005 by Carol Davis, then-SRC’s Dean of Community and Workforce Education, to (1) provide quality entertainment within the Spoon River College District; (2) provide an avenue for local talents to perform; and (3) raise funds to support the SRC Foundation’s scholarship program and performing arts/equipment at SRC. A generous grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois assisted in the group’s establishment.
Since its first concert of Handel’s Messiah in 2005, the Chorus membership has grown to over 200 students, community members, SRC faculty and staff, and friends of the college. These members serve as musicians, technicians, singers, actors, visual artists, and dancers. Because we believe that the performing arts should be open to anyone with a love of performance, auditions to participate are not required, and a spot is found for anyone who desires to take part.
Annual performances include revues, plays, concerts, and musicals. Depending on the type of offerings, performance venues may be the SRC Theatre on the Canton Campus in Taylor Hall, local dinner theatre venues, district church sanctuaries, and open-air facilities.
The SRC Community Chorus, operating under the auspices of the SRC Foundation, has established six $10,000 named endowed scholarships which are awarded in perpetuity. The scholarships recognize former Chorus members and include the Harley L. Davis Memorial Scholarship, the Tom Greenwell Memorial Scholarship, the Marge Saville Memorial Scholarship, the Roger Howerter Memorial Scholarship, the Gail A. Mathis Memorial Scholarship, and the Vicki Murphy Memorial Scholarship. Now it is the David L. Bishop Memorial Scholarship.
INTO THE FUTURE
Chad Murphy often thinks about his participation in the chorus. “Through the years, some people have asked me, ‘Why would a group of people give up so much of their time…with no pay? What do you get out of it?’ The list is way too long, but I will give you a couple of examples. The social aspect of doing community chorus is an inherent benefit. With each production, you meet so many different people who share your passion and love for music.”
“These people become part of your life as a result of the road you take with them,” Murphy continues. Some of them are close friends, some acquaintances, but all a part of the circle of the music and performance life. You might see them in this year’s production, but then not again for a year or two or five, but the connection remains and is ignited once you reconnect with them. It’s a great feeling! Life can be hard. Especially so this year. But singing, acting, performing allows me to escape the chaos and feeling better is almost always guaranteed.”
The SRC Community Chorus continues to thrive and plans to return to live performances next August with The Musical World of Disney. The not-for-profit group, under the auspices of the SRC Foundation, is an ever-expanding family where laughter, hard work, friendship, and creative artistry will continue long into the future. For more, contact Colin Davis at (309) 649-6395, Carol Davis at (309) 338-7698, or visit http://www.src.edu/foundation/Pages/chorus.aspx. .
Photo courtesy of Dave Barbknecht/Stilled Moments.