The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) Chorus is known around Australia and parts of the world for its love of singing and the qualities the choristers bring. Members have sung alongside major choirs across Australia and in Hong Kong, Barcelona and Berlin. When the Covid crisis began and we moved into lockdown, Chorus Master June Tyzack worried that Chorus members might get ‘lost’ in the isolation, and that they would be unprepared (or underprepared) in relation to performances for the time when health concerns were no longer constraining our communities and concerts could be staged once more.
Back in March those were the days of the infancy of the boom in Zoom and other online meeting platforms. June immediately harnessed Zoom’s collaborative power and began conducting rehearsals online with the view that the Chorus needed to be ready should the pandemic subside and concerts could again be delivered. On any given night it might be any number of the sopranos, altos, tenors or basses coming together and singing from their own houses. This wasn’t easy in some households; houses or apartments might be tiny and other residents (or family members) might not be able to ‘get away’ in that period when leaving the house for anything other than a limited range of reasons was potentially dangerous.
Trying to solve the problem of how to keep the Chorus together, yet how to keep everyone safe from the virus was her chief concern. And then, when conditions were relaxing although everyone was still being very careful, there was a flash of inspiration. June’s husband Gary voiced the idea of inviting small groups of choristers to sing in various locations around Hobart. The process would be that they could choose to wear or not to wear masks, but they must at all times keep their distance. They could not invite their friends or tell others about this project – to reduce the risk. Off June went to reconnoitre, sussing out obscure and unlikely locations with natural acoustics.
But what about other members of the public being around? They would increase the danger of infection being spread and June remained mindful that the safety of the choristers and the public was essential.
At that point the Sunrise Project was born; restrictions on the size of gatherings had been eased further and June thought it time to amass the entire Chorus. Through these winter months on icy mornings there have been few members of the general public out and about as the sun rose. Hardy happy choristers travelled to each different location over recent weeks then sang for a short while. Together but apart. Able to sing for the pure pleasure. In wonderful mountain, seaside and historical environments. Exhilarating. The ultimate tutti chorus event on an endless deserted beach is still waiting for a cloudless sunrise!
All the photos below come from the Facebook sites of June Tyzack, Gary Price and Mary McArthur, with their permissions.
There was one day when a number of choristers with yachts headed out onto the Derwent River; four yachts abreast, with choristers spaced along their edges, being conducted by June from one yacht. A brilliant and entrancing event, albeit without an audience.
The TSO wrote a blog story which encapsulates the grand adventure of this innovative, almost accidental, project that was designed to keep the choristers together and give them space to do what they love best which is to sing. June’s husband Gary remarked, ‘It’s in June’s DNA to be creative and find solutions and that is why in a tiny city, on a tiny island, not too far off the South Pole a group of 80 extraordinary people can come together in extraordinary times to create one extraordinary family of singers.’