‘We’re back, baby’: community choirs sing again after more than 2 years break | TBEN News


As she sits down next to her fellow Cornwall Community Choir members – minutes before their first rehearsal in two and a half years – Johanne Gass struggles to stay composed.

“I hope I can keep it together,” she said. “I feel very emotional and happy, finally back together.”

The last time the group sang together was in March 2020. They were preparing for a concert at a retirement home in nearby Clyde River, PEI.

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Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The concert was cancelled. The choir stopped singing.

What followed was two and a half years of ever-changing collection limits, mask rules, and COVID-19 cases that didn’t leave much room for choirs to rehearse or perform.

Some PEI community choirs, including those in Cornwall, failed to materialize altogether.

Johanne Gass, a member of the Cornwall Community Choir, said she felt emotional singing with the group for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic had stopped rehearsals. (Steve Bruce/TBEN)

“I was lost. It’s like, ‘What are we doing? How are we going to spend our time?'” Gass said. “But I was very understanding. It’s an older group and nobody wants to be sick. Nobody wants to put anyone in danger.”

‘Sense of normalcy’

But with the introduction of COVID-19 booster shots on PEI and most of the restrictions gone, the choir organizers decided now was the time to start singing again.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison “made it so that we can, and not be too nervous,” said Nancy Jack, an organizer and member of the Cornwall Community Choir. “We are careful with our own health and feel quite good about it.”

“I feel a lot of joy,” Gass added. “It’s time to start living our lives again.”

Some choirs have continued to sing and perform in one way or another over the past two years, but it has not been easy.

Margot Rejskind conducts a few choirs at PEI As they continued to rehearse and perform for the past two years, she said it was challenging to deal with ever-changing restrictions and masking rules. (Steve Bruce/TBEN)

“My choirs got going pretty early in the pandemic, but we were very far apart,” said Margot Rejskind, who directs a few different island groups.

“We were masked. In some cases… we could only have 50 people in the audience, and they took up an entire church, and we took up the entire front of the church because we had to be two meters apart .”

We can have a full audience again. We don’t have to count them. We don’t need to get their contact details. They can just come and enjoy.– Margot Rejskind

As she now gets to work on fall rehearsals, Rejskind said there’s “more of a sense of normalcy.”

“Nobody likes to sing with a mask. So that’s an option now,” she said. “We can have full audiences again. We don’t have to count them. We don’t have to get their contact details. They can just come and enjoy.

“So this feels like ‘We’re back, honey!'”

The organizers of Cornwall’s Community Choir say they have not been comfortable rehearsing so far, especially as many of the members are older and may be more susceptible to COVID-19. (Steve Bruce/TBEN)

Rejskind said she is well aware that COVID-19 could still spoil some of their rehearsal and performance plans, and that mandatory masking could return at some point.

“But I think what I personally learned is to try not to sweat the little things. What do we do? We come together to sing. And when it works well, we also come together to sing and share that with an audience And if we can only do part of that, that’s okay. And if we can do all that, great.”

Members of the Cornwall Community Choir take a similar approach. For this fall, they have already planned performances in retirement and nursing homes.

“Oh, you must have hope, and I think we’re going to do it,” Gass said. “Seeing how much the seniors love it and how much they respond to it is a really good feeling.”