The last time the Sea to Sky Singers held a public event was A Celtic Christmas in 2019.
Back when the pandemic hit everything had to stop, especially singing in a group, which was deemed one of the riskier activities for spreading COVID-19.
Even a modified Christmas 2020 event couldn't go ahead.
But the pared-down group — with 16 members now, down from its pre-pandemic 30-odd — has figured out a way to perform that is safe and community building, according to the choir's music director, Veronica McPhee.
She describes Missing You, a virtual choir concert as a journey of love, loss, and reconnection.
The online event links a series of songs with personal letters about what choir members miss during this time apart.
The letters are authentic but fictional, McPhee said, and they reveal that what we seek is still all around us, pandemic or not.
While video conferencing has taken over so much of our lives, it isn't developed to the point you can have simultaneous singing, McPhee noted.
"Timing is so important, even a bit of stalling that you have in video calls, or that lag time, just makes singing together impossible."
Thus, this term, the members kept journals talking about who they missed and why.
"And how those people are still relevant in our lives and how people can come and go through your lives and how they imprint upon you," she said.
Through that process, the letters and the plan for the concert were born.
While it was challenging, McPhee said putting together this event has really solidified the community, in the community choir.
"Truthfully, I think we have created something really beautiful that we would never have considered creating otherwise," she said.
The songs were pre-recorded and they "tie the journey together," she said.
There is a sense of loss at the beginning of the piece, then a sense of memory, and then realizing the people and the spirit we miss, is living among us through the many interactions we are still able to have, McPhee explained.
"It starts off kind of sad, but we are hoping that the journey takes people to a place of hopefulness and reconnection," she said.
McPhee said that for the choir getting together each week and finding what they could do together — rather than focusing on what they couldn't — has been a similar journey.
It was a big learning tech curve for many in the choir, McPhee acknowledged, but they have the expertise of local musician and sound tech Brian Merchant.
The songs at the concert will be played via music videos.
"This is held as a webinar. So, it is an online platform where you have panelists — members of the choir and myself — and we will be doing the reading of the letters live, and the videos are pre-recorded," she said.
McPhee said that the Sea to Sky Singers is the first choir to package a concert this way, as far as she knows.
The concert experience is "enhanced" with Sensory Concert Kits, available for pick up or delivery in Squamish. Each kit includes items to taste, touch, smell, and bring viewers closer together, McPhee said.
"In the course of the concert, we will say like, 'Take out your muffin,' and then there will be a letter about that experience of making muffins. They will be eating the muffin, they will be hearing the letter and then they will hear the song that ties that idea of memory and connection through experience and tradition — all of that is tied together," she said. "And hopefully, will have a deeper sensation for people."
Kits are available for purchase for $20. The deadline to order is Saturday, May 22.
The online concert is slated for Saturday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m.
It is free, due in part to a United Way Local Love grant.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to order your kit.