Seaway Chorale to host first Christmas concert since beginning of pandemic – Southgate News Herald

Seaway Chorale to host first Christmas concert since beginning of pandemic – Southgate News Herald

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The songs and sounds of Christmas will once again echo through the walls of the Flat Rock Community Auditorium this holiday season. The Seaway Chorale is back for their first full concert in three years after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year also marks the group’s 45th anniversary after being founded in 1976 by late Director David Ward.
The chorale will be performing their “Joy to the World,” concert on Dec. 2 and 3 this year at the auditorium located inside Flat Rock High School, 25600 Seneca Street.
The group usually performs two concerts every year—one during the holiday season and another in the spring—but the last two years required a different approach to performing because of the pandemic.
Chris Utz, president of Seaway Chorale, said he can vividly remember sitting in a webinar on the subject of singing after the pandemic was announced, and learning that singing was one of the most dangerous activities one could be involved in when a pandemic virus is circulating.
“The threat that was involved, quite honestly, was very frightening,” Utz said. “Singing is about one of the worst things you can possibly do in terms of spreading a virus,” he said.
Utz said that a large portion of the chorale is made-up of people who were considered to be a vulnerable age group for catching the COVID-19 virus.
“We are an older group, made-up mostly of people 65 and older. When the news came down in March 2020 about the pandemic, our board members decided that we weren’t going to be able to have a concert this year.”
Once spring and summer of 2020 had passed, the board looked ahead to the upcoming holiday season, and again made the decision that it was best to put a pause on the concerts until further notice.
“In the fall of 2020, we came to the conclusion that we just can’t sing safely and host a Christmas concert, and by the spring of 2021, not much had changed, so we again cancelled our spring concert,” Utz said.
By the summer of 2021 and with COVID-19 vaccines rolling out across the country, the group reevaluated the situation and decided they could safely sing again, but with some changes.
“Once the summer came around, we decided that if people are vaccinated and if we can sing with masks, that’s what we’ll try to do,” Utz said.
Utz said it was difficult at first for the chorale to sing with masks on.
“Singing with masks is not the easiest thing you can do. It’s tough on your breath,” he said.
By the fall of 2021, the group hosted four Christmas concerts at various local churches, and decided that if there was any outbreak of the virus, they would immediately stop the performances.
“Fortunately, that didn’t happen,” Utz said. “So we decided to continue our small concert performances in the spring with four more performances, and by summer, we decided that this year it was time to return to our main performance at the auditorium in Flat Rock.”
Utz said that when COVID-19 first started, the chorale lost about half of the group and that they are now in a rebuilding stage.
While performing during the pandemic at the smaller venues, 15 new members joined during that time, and all of the new members have yet to perform at the big show in Flat Rock.
“The new members that have joined us have never sung in a concert at Flat Rock, and we now have about 50 people in the chorale,” Utz said. “I’m incredibly proud of this group. It took some guts for people to come back in the fall of 2021,” he said.
During the small concerts, Utz said everyone was enthusiastic, and that the passion to sing never left them. “It’s a group of people that never gave up, and quite frankly at times we could have. Instead, we are continuing the tradition that started in 1976.”
Utz is hoping that this holiday season, the auditorium will be packed and that the audience will be full of Christmas spirit.
“Our ultimate goal is to get the same energy back from our audience that we put into these concerts,” he said. “When they give us that energy, it just makes everything so worthwhile.”
When members see the smiling faces leaving the shows, it means everything to them.
“We want people walking out of the concert with smiles on their faces, a good feeling in their hearts, and humming some tune that we put in their heads,” Utz said.
This year, the chorale will be singing several Christmas favorites as well as some unique arrangements, including two new songs written by Anthony Lai, director of the chorale.
“Anthony is a tremendous director,” Utz said. “He is the most talented director I have ever worked with and he gets the best out of us, while still making it fun. We’ve never had as much fun in rehearsal as we do with him.”
The concert lasts about an hour and a half with an intermission period, during which a raffle is held. “People will be selling raffle tickets during intermission and the biggest prize is $200,” Utz said.
The group usually sells out their Christmas concert every year.
Tickets for the concert can be purchased at the door on the day of the performances, and are also available for purchase online at seawaychorale.org.
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