Winchester Chorale ready to make a joyful noise in a COVID world

Published 5:28 pm Monday, November 29, 2021

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Linda Bridgewater is ready to make a joyful noise this holiday season.

“It’s so fun to be back. I mean, I love to sing, and it is just fun to be back with my friends,” she said.

Bridgewater is a member of the Winchester Chorale, an inter-church community choir known for its annual Christmas concert.
The concert returns from a one-year COVID-related break with two performances this weekend at Winchester First Church of God: Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

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The community longed for the concert just as the choir members did.

“Everybody missed it,” said long-time member Peggy Case. “Because so many people in town have said that this is their beginning of the Christmas season … It makes a good kickoff for them.”

The choir originated in 1993. It has gone through a few breaks and different directors but remains dedicated to its role as the harbinger of holiday cheer.

“It’s lovely music. It’s fun and uplifting Christmas, and celebrates the season,” Bridgewater said about the concert experience.
The concert has been well attended in years past, but the audience for this year’s performance might be down due to the lingering fear of the virus.

“We’ve always had really good crowds,” Case said. “I don’t know, the way things are right now, if people will be comfortable.”

Bridgewater estimated that there would be around 40 performers, but several participants decided to sit out the performance.

“I think that some people decided not to sing with us because of COVID. They resigned and decided it was not in our best interest to do this,” she said.
The choir has taken precautions to ensure that the concert does not become a spreader event. All choir members stay masked during rehearsals and maintain a safe distance when they are not on stage.

For guests, the choir would like for them to stay masked until they are seated. Vaccinated individuals may remove their masks if they feel comfortable. Unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to keep their masks on during the performance. There will be socially distanced seating for those who wish to remain six feet apart from others.

Choir members will remain masked during the performance as well, which, while challenging, is circumnavigated thanks to a handy tool.

“It is very, very difficult to sing wearing a mask,” said the choir’s director, Amy Berryman. “So most of us have a little insert, a silicon insert, that we put in that actually keeps the mask off their lips. So as you are breathing, you are not inhaling your mask … It’s still not the best as being able to have that mask off your face, but it really does help with breathing in and pronunciation.”

Even with the challenges, Berryman said she believes that celebrating together again makes the concert worth holding.

“After the past nearly two years of not being able to be together and celebrate things, I think this is a wonderful way for us to come together, celebrate and be thankful we have this wonderful music right here in our town,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the start time for the Friday performance as 7:30 p.m instead of the actual time, 7:00 p.m.