Now the Angels Sing Social Distancing Style

A Covid Christmas Tale

I don’t know if you believe in angels, but I do. Of course, we all have experience with the flesh and blood kind as in, “You are such an angel,” but I also have firsthand experience with the beyond earthly kind. I have had too many unexplained miracles occur in my life to deny that they are out there, watching out for us, helping when no earthly help is near, and yes, singing. Singing in heavenly choirs (that a few humans have been privileged to hear) and, when needed, joining in some earthly ones. This story is about both kinds and the challenges of having the benefits of those angles while social distancing. Well, the earthly kind anyway, as far as I know, heavenly angels are exempt for Covid.

I don’t have a great talent for leading adult vocal choirs, so I was a bit unsure when I was called to be the choir director for the church in mid-2019. We had a great choir director, but she was unable to continue due to some circumstances at home. I have loved directing children’s choirs for many years and feel very competent in that realm, but my only other experience as a choir director for adults had been less than positive. That calling came during a very busy time in my life and it was hard to juggle all I had to do. In addition, I had an accompanist who was a great pianist but did not have much experience playing for vocalists. On top of all of that, it seemed that most of the ward’s (a local congregation) talented vocalist had a lot of other obligations, so I felt I was always imposing to get people to participate in the choir as it wasn’t their top priority. That little choir had some good moments, but I was not unhappy when I got another call and needed to be released.

The current stint seemed to be going much better. I managed to put together a respectable Christmas program for 2019 and there were a lot of really supportive people that participated. I felt encouraged, maybe this experience as a choir director would be better. Enter 2020, and the pandemic. At first, I thought great, a break. I can’t do this calling while on church hiatus, I will just enjoy the respite. But then the lock-down dragged on, and as we got closer to Christmas. I realized we needed the normalcy of a Christmas program, even if the program would be less than normal. I could do this and was actually a bit excited. Unlike leading a choir of grown-ups, this was right up my alley. Video production has been a hobby of mine for some time now so it seemed I had found the very reason I had this calling at this time. So, I put some irons in the fire, and we came up with a plan for a virtual program. Most of the music would be pre-recorded, with some live instrumentals. We had some talented people, the earthly angels, who stepped up. And, I hoped the heavenly angels, the unseen kind, would indeed help as well on the less than perfect areas.

As the recorded submissions began to come in it looked like those earthly angels were doing their part. Most of the musical pieces were sung by family groups and sounded wonderful, so it would be easy for me to do some quick edits and produce some wonderful finished pieces. One number would be trickier. It would be a women’s number which included several female members of the ward choir. All were willing and eager to participate, but most were a bit apprehensive about recording themselves and how it would look and sound. I assured everyone that I would make them look and sound polished through the magic of video editing, and we came up with a plan to blend our voices together.

One by one the ladies began sending me their recordings, but for the most part, they also sent along their messages of inadequacy on the job they had done. I advised them to use headphones or earbuds when recording, so all that was picked up by the recording was their voice alone. The singers told me they were concerned about the quality of their voice, or that they didn’t know all of the notes exactly, or that some parts didn’t sound just right. Even our pianist, who is a very accomplished accompanist, struggled and felt that she did not do as good of a job as she felt she should.

As I listened to each individual recording I had to admit they were right. No one really sounded great and polished alone, and this became glaringly true when I recorded my own voice. It sounded thin and inconsistent and quite gravely in places. My years of video editing told me I had the skills to make this sound good, but there were moments of doubt and fear that I didn’t have the time or the footage to adequately pull it off. This was meant to be a part of a worship service that highlighted the true meaning of Christmas. A poor performance would detract from that spirit. We needed to be more than good, we needed to be great.

As I worked away, cutting away a few slow areas of the accompaniment, raising the volume of some vocal parts while lowering others, arranging the video tiles, little by little the project came together. My little group of women began to sound like angels, instead of a bunch of imperfect humans. I may have even heard some heavenly voices added into the mix. When the finished project was ready to present I realized something profound; while none of us sounded great and polished alone, it really came together when the voices were blended and adjusted to one another. This was true even though we were not able to sing in the same room together. I have long been acquainted with the power of singing together in a musical group, but this experience made me realize that power and support can come from a group with a common goal, even from a distance.

This year has been hard on all of us. Many things that we love we can’t do. Many people we normally socialize and worship with are out of reach. Humans are social creatures. We work best, we enjoy our play, and we support each other best when we can do it together. But during this pandemic, there have been angels.  This experience taught me that even if we aren’t physically near, we can still receive strength from each other when working on a common cause. We can feel the strength and support from others, even at a distance and when we do, we can hear the angels sing.

Click here: To hear the Angels to sing.