Changing to fit the re-CHOIR-ments


Amidst a chaotic school day in 2020, a usually uncensored chorus issues out from the P-Wing in an unprecedentedly swathed fashion.

2020 has been a difficult year for students across the board, whether you are discussing the unceremonious end to the 2019-2020 school year or the atypical start to the 2020-2021 school year. Students have been asked to adhere to a myriad of guidelines-social distancing, remote learning, and mask-wearing being some of the most prominent. These guidelines have been especially challenging for one group of students, in particular, this group being the choristers.

“We are really happy that we can be here singing, you know, and doing what we do. I’m all in favor of trying to get everyone back in school as much as possible, you know, but there is a way to do it safely,” choir teacher Brian Kieffer said. “With all that being said, it is difficult it makes it harder for us to function normally.”

By nature, choir is a large group event where students must be together in order to perform and get the most out of the experience. This has caused difficulties within the choir due to current guidelines such as social-distancing and mask-wearing. 

Many changes have been made to choir, such as the employment of Singer’s Masks, the use of social distancing within the classroom, the cutting down of singing time, the utilization of remote learning, and the changing of the performance format.

One of the dominant changes that has been made to choir this year has been the mask mandate. To overcome this, the choir has employed the use of the “Singer’s Mask” (more crudely referred to as the “Duck Mask”). 

The Singer’s Mask stays on your face much like a standard mask, with the major difference being its firm structure on the mask part itself, preventing the mask from clinging to the face of the singer. While the Singer’s Mask has been beneficial, it still presents both teachers and students alike with challenges.

“Imagine if a coach who calls everything out on the field because of what they see, we blindfolded that coach,” Kieffer said. “All of the sudden you are making it so we can’t hear as well because the masks we wear deaden the sound, it’s hard to see as directors, it’s hard to hear as directors.”

Student reception of the Singer’s Masks has been mixed, with the common consensus being that they are very cumbersome. 

“It depends how it fits you, mine goes over my ears, so it’s hard to hear people around me, and I can just hear myself,” junior Kiara Derbyshire said. “They’re definitely interesting, it’s easier to move your mouth, like there’s a lot more space, but it’s still really hard.”

Though, some students have found the positive in wearing the Singer’s Mask.

“When you have the Singer’s Mask, you can really only hear yourself, so it kind of makes us be more independent, we have to rely on our own voice,” senior Kevin Campbell II said. “One of the techniques Mr. Kieffer makes us do is dropping our jaw, and the mask kind of restricts that a little bit, so we have to work harder to make sure we sing better, sing louder, so the mask doesn’t muffle our voices.”

Due to the nature of choir, where students feed off of the energy of other students in order to boost their own performance, social distancing has proved to be difficult for the choir program. Students have had to space out, which, when coupled with the Singer’s Masks has made it difficult for them to hear other students, causing them to be more independent.

Another major change that has befallen choir is the need for remote work. Choir is typically a class in which there is little to no homework. The choral remote work primarily focuses on music theory, critical listening, analysis, at-home rehearsal, and helping students maintain the basics of choir. 

Much like with the Singer’s Masks, student reception of the choral remote work has been a wide variety of opinions, with some students having a difficult time.

“I never noticed how much I really liked learning music in class, because going home and learning it on the piano is very difficult,” sophomore Josie Herttna said. “You could be in the wrong key, you could not be paying attention to flats, and not knowing which note you’re supposed to lower or make higher and you could learn it completely wrong.”

However, some students have found choral remote learning to be very beneficial.

“It’s actually been a really good learning experience,” sophomore Lindsey Yocum said. “It has helped me become more of an independent singer for sure.” 

Class structure has also changed a lot this school year. Students will now usually only sing for 30 minutes at a time before being moved out of the classroom while the teacher disinfects the room.

One of the major aspects of choir, and really the endgame of the classroom rehearsals, are the concerts and performances. To adhere to current health and safety guidelines, concerts and performances have been changed drastically.

“Our concerts are going to look very different this year,” Kieffer said. “We have one coming up on October 20th that is going to be outside in the piazza, where Drifters and Notables, and Men’s Ensemble are going to be singing outside.”

Virtual concerts are also being looked into as an alternative to in-person concerts, seeing as the theater is currently only allowed to be at 15 percent capacity. Also, the incredibly popular annual Christmas concert will be split into four different concerts in order to accommodate all guests. All musicals and state trips are off for the time being.

Alas, as the world changes every day, so does the state and school. Plain Local Schools Superintendent Brent May announced that all students will be returning to school full time on Oct. 12. Many students have shown some concern, although there are also some who have faith in their fellow choristers, and believe that it will be safe to go back full time. 

“I don’t really think that there are any safety concerns for us in choir because all of us want to be back, all of us really want to have concerts again, so I’m pretty sure that every single one of us are going to follow the rules and wear the mask, try to be social distanced,” Campbell said. “We want all of our stuff to be back, I don’t think anybody in our choir would try to jeopardize that.” 

In order to keep students safe, the choir teachers are looking into stronger room filtration, to keep the air clean, while also continuing to adhere to our school’s health and safety guidelines.

Despite all of the changes this year, both choir teachers and students have gone to great lengths to continue to sing.