Shedding the Silence

The individuals in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus (TSOC) have suffered in various ways through the months of the pandemic lockdown. For some, singing at home was not to the liking of other house occupants so, for those people, a major pleasure in their life came to a halt. All choristers loved coming together to sing as a group (around 80 strong) and make coordinated sounds; it was being part of the collective making wonderful music which, until the pandemic, kept them attending every Tuesday night rehearsal. However during the past months most have realised singing alone or even singing with some of the others in the chorus has not been enough.

Early on Chorus Master, June Tyzack, took small groups for rehearsal via Zoom meetings. Then a while later, when some of Tasmania’s pandemic restrictions were loosened,  small groups would meet at the beach, on a rocky cliff, on a yacht, in all types of weather at sunrise and sing – with their Chorus Master conducting! 

In recent weeks good fortune smiled and the TSOC was able to use the Goods Shed, a disused building on Macquarie Point adjacent to the wharf area of Hobart, for rehearsals. Then it was made available by the Macquarie Point Development Corporation to use for concerts. Recently family members and friends of TSO choristers were invited to one of their two first public concerts since March. 68 choristers performed across the space sometimes singing a capella, and at other times accompanied by a piano or a djembe. Both concerts were fully subscribed.

As my invitation said; ‘Although invisible since March, the TSO choristers have found unique ways to rehearse  throughout the pandemic in the most amazing natural and man-made environments. Experience the irrepressible spirit of the TSO Chorus Shedding the Silence in the vast space of the Goods Shed.’  I will add to this with words such as: Indestructible, Tough, Dedicated, Committed, Passionate, and Enduring.

The numbers of guests was restricted with a maximum of 80 per concert seated in a spaced way to comply with social distancing requirements. This was my first concert where everyone had considerable space around them. I loved it and hope this becomes a permanent feature of future concerts. For the first time I did not hear and was not influenced by the breath, swallowing or snorts of an adjacent audience member. If anyone went hunting for lozenges of other objects in their bags or pockets I did not hear the distracting rustle. If they checked their mobiles for news, I did not see the bright lights. Couples could no longer whisper loudly between themselves. In other words, the musicians and their music was front and centre of my attention throughout.  A pervasive joy.

The choristers now had audience. No longer were they singing for themselves; once again they were able to give to others. At the concert’s conclusion, they heard the applause and tears sprung to many eyes, mine included. Their wonderful voluntary effort was rewarded with a standing ovation from many, and wild calls of bravo and enthusiastic whistles.

Once again, I realise how fortunate I am to live in Tasmania which has escaped (and hopefully it remains so) the intense lockdowns of other places in Australia and around the world. In particular, I am grateful for Hobart’s re-emerging lively cultural scene.  Thank you TSOC.

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