Virtual videos keep Northwest Choral Society busy

  • Directed and produced by Virtual Artistic Director Brian Youngham Lee, bottom, and accompanied by Collaborative Pianist Lori Lyn Mackie, bottom left, the Northwest Choral Society and members of the Millar Brass Ensemble perform a virtual choir of "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

    Directed and produced by Virtual Artistic Director Brian Youngham Lee, bottom, and accompanied by Collaborative Pianist Lori Lyn Mackie, bottom left, the Northwest Choral Society and members of the Millar Brass Ensemble perform a virtual choir of "How Can I Keep from Singing?" Courtesy of Northwest Choral Society

 
 
Updated 4/15/2021 11:12 AM

When the COVID 19 pandemic struck and "the normal routines" of singing in a confined space was nixed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Northwest Choral Society President Penny Perles and Collaborative Pianist Lori Lyn Mackie adapted an idea for keeping the chorus members' voices in tune and their outlook positive.

With the assistance and guidance of Virtual Artistic Director and Conductor Brian Youngham Lee, the 25-member chorus has produced two virtual video productions, which are available at nwchoralsociety.org. A third video currently is in production.

 

"It is important to keep our members singing, so when NWCS had to cancel its normal rehearsal and concert schedule, this was the safest alternative for all of us," said Perles.

The chorus' most recent virtual performance, arranged by American composer Gwyneth Walker, is "How Can I Keep from Singing?" The song is based on a Quaker hymn dating back to the 1800s in the United States. Walker's catalog includes more than 300 commissioned works for orchestra, ensembles and chorus.

For this virtual performance, NWCS is accompanied by Collaborative Pianist Lori Lyn Mackie and members of the Millar Brass Ensemble. While the ensemble performs in and around Chicago and tours nationally, its primary function is to play as part of the liturgy at Northwestern University's Alice Millar Chapel.

In December, the chorus prepared a virtual choir of "Angels' Gloria," arranged by Laura Farnell, in which six Christmas carols are tied together by a recurring musical theme. A link to this presentation remains on the NWCS website.

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"We are pleased that several former members of NWCS who have moved away were able to join us in the virtual choirs, as we never met face-to-face to produce the videos," said Perles.

In late April, NWCS plans to release a third virtual choir, Morten Lauridsen's "Sure on This Shinning Night." Lauridsen, distinguished professor of composition at the University of Southern California, who was named an American Choral Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005, originally composed "Sure on This Shinning Night" as the third movement for Nocturnes on poems by Rilke, Neruda and Agee.

To further insure that NWCS remains the cohesive and fun organization that it was prior to the start of the pandemic, chorus member Jennifer Bauer has organized weekly social meetings on Zoom for the Tuesday evening time period the chorus previously met for rehearsals.

Participating from their respective homes, chorus members have been challenged with meeting topics ranging from "The Best Dinner I Ever Ate" to "Team Trivia" and "Never Have I Ever ..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

NWCS retained Brian Youngham Lee, a former choir member and accomplished conductor and musician, as its virtual artistic director for the 2020-2021 season. No live concerts were planned for this season, but NWCS hopes to resume rehearsals in September.

Founded in 1965, the Northwest Choral Society is a nonprofit organization that promotes and encourages the appreciation, understanding and performance of a wide variety of outstanding choral literature. Its adult membership resides in the greater Chicago area.

NWCS normally meets from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, September through the beginning of June, in Arlington Heights at First Presbyterian Church. Post COVID-19, concerts will be performed in venues in the greater Chicago area.

The Northwest Choral Society invites experienced singers to audition to join the organization when the next season starts in September. Basses, tenors, altos and sopranos with previous choral experience and at least 17 years of age can obtain additional information about the Northwest Choral Society at www.nwchoralsociety.org or (224) 585-9127.

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