Across the country, performing arts groups have struggled for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many have found alternative methods of pursuing the arts while remaining as safe as possible. Such is the path that the College’s a cappella groups have found themselves on this semester.
Annika Balish ’21, president of COWBelles, emphasized that safety is the group’s number one priority for the semester. Participation is optional, with the primary focus on the social aspect of the group, a sentiment that is echoed by the presidents of other a cappella groups on campus as well. A Round of Monkeys, Merry Kuween of Skots and Shades of Gold are planning to maintain the musical aspects of their groups while holding social events for members. Woo Sang Clan is not planning to hold rehearsals for now, but will have virtual group bonding sessions throughout the semester.
For the groups that are planning to hold rehearsals and performances, logistics have been difficult to coordinate. The College only recently released its safety guidelines for a cappella groups; because of this, the groups’ executive boards have had to rethink their plans based on the lengthy list of restrictions. COWBelles is the only group planning to hold in-person rehearsals this semester, and their structure will greatly differ from previous years. Singers will now rehearse outside, spaced twelve feet apart and wearing masks specially designed for singing.
The groups holding virtual rehearsals are facing their own challenges. Tim Cotter ’22, president of Merry Kuween of Skots, reflected on his cabinet’s thought process, saying, “Because multiple people can’t effectively sing at the same time in virtual rehearsals, we plan on focusing more on each individual during rehearsals and having a separate call for those who aren’t singing at a given time.”
A Round of Monkeys President Cecilia Payne ’21 also cited the audio feedback through Zoom and Teams calls as an issue. Instead of using these platforms, members will learn pieces on their own with the group’s music directors available to assist them, filming and sending videos of their parts.
While the groups’ rehearsal processes for the semester differ, they have all taken the same approach to performances. The College has prohibited in-person performances for the campus community due to concerns about COVID-19, so the groups have elected to release virtual performances throughout the semester. This will be accomplished by mixing individual recordings together with editing software to create a cohesive sound. Information on performances and how to access them will be released on the groups’ social media accounts, as well as through the College’s activities emails and virtual events manager 25Live.
When discussing the difficulty in planning this semester, Balish expressed gratitude for the other a cappella groups’ presidents. Due to the overwhelming nature of organizing under such tight restrictions, the groups have been communicating more closely than in a typical year, largely to ensure that new members are spread evenly across groups and that no one group’s plans will compromise another’s. “There has been nearly constant communication about our plans and I really appreciate that,” she said.