When I decided to run for President of our chapter this year, it was against the exciting backdrop of seeking to grow in membership. While our membership numbers are not small, many of us have constraints of various types that limit our participation in certain performances or activities. Having more members not only would give us greater flexibility for more complex and more frequent performances, but would add diversity to our chapter that could bring fresh perspective, vision, and energy. We had performed and exhibited at a Women’s Expo at the end of February, which had been great for outreach, and were talking about holding a mini-show in mid-April as another way to invite others to experience the joy of our craft.
That was then, this is now.
By early March, members were beginning to express anxiety about Covid-19, issuing reminders that those who were sick should stay home. However, most of us were not yet envisioning the way our worlds would change. When our mid-March chapter election (preparing for our fiscal year start on April 1) ran into difficulties due to a late ice storm, we got creative about how to accomplish our elections electronically, never imagining that this would be issuing in a new era of remote membership.
You all know the story. In Massachusetts, a state of emergency was declared on March 10. New Hampshire declared a state of emergency on March 13, just as Massachusetts was limiting large gatherings. In an abundance of caution, we cancelled our rehearsals immediately. New Hampshire prohibited gatherings of 50 or more on March 16, then 10 or more on March 23. All non-essential businesses were closed in Massachusetts and New Hampshire on March 23 and March 26, respectively. Happy fiscal new year!
Now, growing is less about an increase in numbers, and more about providing support so our existing members can remain strong and “nourished by devotion to our music.” Some things we are learning:
- We can still gather using on-line platforms, learning skills, drilling songs, and sharing friendship.
- Although we know we should routinely do physical stretches, we rarely do unless someone is leading us in doing them.
- Singing together on-line, with its inherent lag, does NOT reflect our ability to make beautiful music together!
- Some of us are sustained by gathering virtually once a week, while others, who spend much of their work day in other online meetings, need to skip a rehearsal now and then to soak up some much needed quiet time.
- This crisis has created opportunities to both give and receive care and assistance, each of which are important to strengthening our community.
- Connections can be made in many ways, from social media platforms, emails, telephone calls, and the occasional masked and socially distanced visit.
We’ll keep growing as individuals and supporting each other so that, when we return to regular rehearsals, we can be ready to welcome new members into our midst. While nothing substitutes for the ringing chords and warm affection we experience when we are together – and we will celebrate mightily when we can do that again! – harmony remains an oasis that allows us to step outside of the current uncertainties to think beyond ourselves about sharing joy with others. No virus, and no separation can change that!