Greenbrier Valley Chorale Returns!

The Greenbrier Valley Chorale’s first concert since the beginning of COVID-19 is set for Sunday, December 12, for 3 p.m. at Carnegie Hall.

Chorale Director Barbara Lutz spoke excitedly about the upcoming event.

“We’ve performed twice a year for years and years and years,” said Lutz. “Not being able to sing during COVID … was just a real loss in our lives.”

After a long year and a half, Lutz decided to call the Chorale back together for rehearsals in October.

“Every Tuesday night, except for summers, we have been going, singing, seeing each other, and preparing for concerts. Rehearsals are just as fun and rewarding as the performances. Being able to just get together and sing on Tuesday nights has been great, but having the concert to look forward to with our audiences is going to be a great Christmas gift I think for all of us really.”

Because rehearsals usually begin in Septemeber, the Chorale had limited practice time before the first concert. Lutz leaned into this, picking a combination of familiar and new music.

“I decided to pull out some music that I knew the majority of our singers would already know, things that we’ve done in concert in the past, and I pulled out things that I know are popular with our audiences,” Lutz explained. “[We’re going to perform] a couple that we do almost every year. I started with about six familiar faces, and then I added three or four pieces that are new. We’re not doing your typical Christmas carols, but all of them are holiday related, both sacred and a couple of secular ones. We’re doing a Hebrew composition.”

This also doesn’t include just singers.

“We have a violinist … from the Blacksburg area, she plays with the Garth Newel Music Center. Her name is Ting-Ting Yen. … Jeff Bryant will be playing the trumpet on one of the pieces. … Sarah Hann is the music teacher at White Sulphur Springs Elementary and she’ll be playing percussion with one of our pieces.”

The story of the chorale is very familiar to organizations across the United States over the past nearly two years.

“The last time we performed was Christmas of 2019. We stopped everything in March 2020, just like everybody else did. We were getting ready for our spring concert, and just right in the middle of rehearsals, we had to stop. We did do one virtual choir, but we haven’t met together as a group until this October. … We normally have between 50 and 70 singers. I thought we would be lucky to get 30 people, but we ended up with 45 people. We also ended up with five new singers, so lots of people did come back.”

The rehearsals started out spread out, with typical masking, then eventually moved to the stage.

“We were seated all across the auditorium, sitting two or three seats apart. We had about four rehearsals where we sang completely socially distanced with masks. … We only do things that we’re comfortable with. … We didn’t ask if people were vaccinated or anything like that. That’s not something that I felt was necessary. I feel like if people are comfortable coming and singing, under the guidelines that we established, then that’s great, then that’s their choice. … I’ve had a couple of people drop out because they just have felt a little bit insecure about it and I get that. It’s COVID right now, absolutely.”

Their precautions include a special type of mask made for musicians.

“We’re wearing special singers’ masks, which are kind of cool. … The first rehearsal, most people were just wearing their normal masks. But after we ordered [the singers’ masks], and they came in, everybody’s wearing the same [masks]. When you breathe, [the singers’ mask] doesn’t touch you at all. It doesn’t touch your lips and inhibit your breathing. The sound is better with the mask away from your face. … It’s not any better than any other mask, except if it was approved by the World Health Organization. It’s as good a mask as any of the others, and it’s just really comfortable to sing in.”

With rehearsals under their belt, singers’ masks on hand, the Greenbrier Valley Chorale’s first concert will be held at Carnegie Hall on December 12 at 3 p.m.

“You can buy tickets at the door, but it’s really better to buy them now, online,” Lutz said. “The best thing to do would be to go to greenbriervalleychorale.org. [Carnegie Hall won’t sell them beforehand] because they’re not actually sponsoring us. … We rent the hall, and they take care of our tickets, but they don’t do it on the telephone.”

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