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RLPC Rehearsal Schedule

The Choir has been split into three groups: the Chamber Choir (about 30 people), the Main Choir (about 50), and those who aren’t yet ready to return to the Phil. Some of these are continuing to shield, and some are on a waiting list to return to the choir when there’s room to accommodate them.

The Hall can only squeeze 30 on stage, so the Chamber Choir will perform carol concerts in December. The Cathedral can support more singers, so the Main Choir will do a concert there in late February(ish), and then the Chamber Choir in late March(ish). No details yet on what happens after that.

Here’s a schedule of rehearsals, with Chamber Choir in RED and Main Choir in BLUE:

November 2 9 16 23 30

December 7 14 21

concerts on 17, 21, 23 and maybe 22

January 4 11 18 25

no rehearsal on 4th January

February 1 8 15 22

extra dates for concert tba
no rehearsal on 15th February

March 1 8 15 22 29

extra dates for concert tba
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Zoom

Zoom is the go-to program for online singing, as the audio quality seems to be better and the timelag between us seems to be manageable. Using it well for choral singing isn’t obvious, so I’ll share some tips as we go along.

I’m pleased that Jenny Johnston has agreed to help us out with some group lessons. Sooner or later, we’ll come out of this crisis and our voices will either be knackered from lack of use, or we’ll be fighting fit and ready to resume rehearsals and concerts. We want to make sure it’s the latter.

I don’t want to overdo any one activity. Other choirs have met online and it’s a lot easier to get bored and frustrated. So I want to alternate sessions with Jenny and some sessions where we sing through stuff ourselves. And maybe only meet alternate weeks and for just an hour until we get a feel for things.

What we mustn’t do is to rummage through our music bags and decide to sing Beethoven 9 and Verdi Requiem just because they’re there. We’ll be singing without a conductor, an orchestra, an audience, or each other. We’ll all just end up realising this isn’t as good as doing it properly, and it’s a fast way for us to make ourselves unhappy.

In my other life in Welsh male voice choirs, there are choirs who’ve dropped from 90 members to about 15, and choirs where they’re just meeting to sing through core repertoire for want of any focus. By contrast, we’ve been rehearsing once a fortnight for the last three months. We’ve just started learning our fifth new piece since lockdown began.

The point is that there are tricks we can use to make this time productive. Mostly, our priority should be to make it fun to be back together, even if only on screen. Sooner or later we’ll be back on stage, so we want to make sure our voices are fit and well when that happens.

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Virtual choir

The whole world has gone mad for virtual choirs, and YouTube is full of people who’ve not done it very well. They’re much more work than they appear – we’d each film our own video over a backing track, then upload them, then the audio needs mixing and the video needs mixing separately.

I got quite depressed about the one I did in May. If your voice is out of condition, it’s horrible trying to sing accurately and confidently when there are no other singers to give you a point of reference. The results weren’t really worth the effort.

Personally, I think it’d be a nice idea but something to aim for in the autumn if things are still bad and we want something to do. More than anything else, it’s something we need to plan – do it well and it could be brilliant; do it badly, and it won’t be.

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Singing together online

Online music making is a nightmare, as there’s always a timelag while sound travels through the pipework. Whatever we do, we’re always listening to each other’s echo rather than their actual sound. As that bounces back and forward there’s no way of staying in phase.

That’s not quite true, as there are a few software solutions to get round the problem. The main one that concerns us is a program called Jamulus. Setting it up isn’t trivial, but it allows small groups to perform together with a timelag limited to a maximum of about 40 milliseconds. It’s a work in progress, but please volunteer if you want to act as a guinea pig.

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Plans

Singing outside

While restrictions continue, there are large areas of Liverpool which are deserted. So it might not be possible for us to stand close together indoors, there are still places outside where we can spread out.

Possible solutions

We could meet in people’s gardens, socially distanced in small groups. That’s something that doesn’t need too much coordinating centrally, but we need to make a list of:

  • who’s in which voice part
  • whereabouts they live (Wirral, Southport, South of the city etc)
  • when they’re available

Then we just need to get you talking to each other to organise events yourselves.


Option 2 is to gather in a bigger group in a central location. One possible location is somewhere near the University, which is going to be like a ghost town for the next few months. The Plaza at the Met Cathedral is huge, empty, and muffled from traffic noise.

A wet weather alternative is the multistorey carpark by the Arena/Convention Centre. The original carpark here burnt down and there’s a new swanky one (under construction) and a temporary one whose upper floors are unused. The sides are completely open, but there’s a roof so we might get a bit of an acoustic. We just need to wrap up warm, as it’s 100 yards from the North Atlantic.


These are all matters for discussion, but it’d be nice to aim for some sort of get-together, maybe in September.