LBCC’s Choir and Their Recent Redesign

Photo by Hikari Kawaii

In a time where the world has come to a halt, everyone has been forced to find their “new normal.” In all that we do, we have sought out new ways to go about the life we once had. The Linn-Benton Community College Choir is no exception. Despite the complexities of this process, the LBCC choir has adapted to the challenges of COVID-19, keeping performers safe and their voices heard.

In an interview with Raymund Ocampo, LBCC’s Performing Arts Director, I was able to gain some insight into what the LBCC choir has done to adapt to these trying times. Beginning in the first week of the Fall 2020 term, the entire choir met to lay down the groundwork for the coming weeks, establishing meeting times and rehearsal methods tailored to COVID-19 prevention guidelines. For a month after that, the choir split up. This entailed half of them rehearsing on Mondays, the other half of them rehearsing on Wednesdays, and then the entire choir gathering on Fridays. After that month was over, the choir got back together, and has been rehearsing as a group since then.

Using a special calculator, the choir is able to determine the safety of various rehearsal locations. In comparison to an outdoor rehearsal, a 60-minute indoor rehearsal is 234 times more dangerous than one that takes place outside. “Choirs are ‘super spreader’ events,” stated Raymund, “We cannot rehearse indoors whatsoever.” To combat this, the LBCC choir has been following the guidelines of an international study done by the University of Colorado. This includes 30-minute outdoor rehearsals, with a 5-minute break. During these rehearsals, a minimum of a 7 and 1/2 foot distance is maintained between each student at all times.

COVID-19 restrictions have not stopped the LBCC choir from participating in other choir activities. “We give our students the opportunity to meet with internationally and nationally renowned composers,” stated Raymund. As of recently, the LBCC choir had the opportunity to meet with composer Paul John Rudoi via Zoom. During this meeting, the choir got to share their recording of one of his songs, “Gamaya,” and receive feedback from him on their work. “We promise each of our choirs at least one workshop every term,” Raymund added.

Combined, the Chamber and Concert choirs are composed of about 35-40 students. “We’re smaller this year, but that’s okay! I think the music is just as powerful,” noted Raymund. Despite the choirs’ ability to meet and rehearse safely as a group, the current world events have also given students the opportunity to grow their skills as individuals.

“I think that, during COVID, there is a chance for us to be better individually, as individual singers.”

With students practicing by themselves outside of rehearsals using Sight-Reading Factory, a sight-reading software designed to evaluate a student’s ability to perform a piece of music without preparation, Raymund noted that he can already see the improvements in each individual performer. “We have an incredible support system at the school and an incredible support system from our donors around the area,” stated Raymund, “We’re able to offer our students something pretty special here at LB.”

The LBCC choir program performs in front of a camera in replacement of a live audience. Photo by Hikari Kawaii

In lieu of the choirs’ normal concert this term, they will instead be releasing a video of their recordings. To do this, the choir will meet on the evening of Dec. 2, by the fountain outside of Calapooia Center and McKenzie Hall, to record the visual portion of their performance. To do this, they will use three study cameras, one moving camera, and one drone to capture the entire choir. From there, they will use their audio recordings alongside the visuals to give the LBCC choirs the spotlight they deserve.

Amidst the challenges of COVID-19, the LBCC choir has not only adapted, but has overcome. Through the use of their various resources, along with their love for music, the Linn-Benton Community College choir has maintained both safety and growth during these uncertain times.

Article written by Tanner Johnson

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