To say that music is an integral part of Carolyn Nielsen’s life would be an understatement.
She spent nearly 50 years as a viola with the Bel Canto Singers, a choir based in Fredericton.
It is this love of music that has made the past two years so difficult for Nielsen.
The choir has not performed in person since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It hasn’t been fun, I can tell you that,” Nielsen said. “A chorister is who I am. It’s part of who I am.”
Nielsen hopes to reclaim that part of her identity when the singers stage their first in-person concert since the start of the pandemic. It’s their annual Christmas concert at Christ Church Cathedral.
Like most choirs, the Bel Canto Singers were on indefinite hiatus during the early days of the pandemic.
At the time, there were a lot of unknowns about COVID-19. It was feared that singing could spread the virus more easily than speaking.
This meant singers had to get more creative with their performances and practice during the pandemic, often turning to Zoom or Skype.
It wouldn’t be ideal under normal circumstances, but it was especially true for the Bel Canto Singers. The choir had just hired a new director.
“Our manager, he had just started with us when COVID shut it all down,” Nielsen said.
“But last year he did some online classes for anyone who wanted to improve their technique.”
Singer Leo Macneil said practicing online just isn’t the same as practicing in person. He admits he never really got the hang of it.
“Choristers are used to leaning on each other… in an architectural way,” Macneil said.
“You listen to your neighbor, and your neighbor supports you, and you support your neighbor while you listen to music in real time.”
Nielsen said the concert’s repertoire will be diverse, with religious choral music but also contemporary pop tunes.
Different pieces will be sung in different places of the church, which will change the sound of the song.
“We will actually be using the entire space of the cathedral,” Macneil said.
The concert will take place on December 11. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
But for those who can’t, a recorded performance will air on December 20.
Nielsen said the thing she looked forward to the most was to sing with a full choir again.
“I can’t wait for the wonderful experience of making great music with other people who love to do the same and sharing it with others,” Nielsen said.
For Macneil, it is the public that excites him the most.
“Doing it ourselves is one thing, but having an audience to share with is really, really special,” Macneil said.
“I can’t wait to hear what the public thinks about it.”