Congratulations to Covid Choral Workshops who have been nominated in Community Project of the Year sponsored by Greentrax Recordings in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2020. Vote here! Vote now!
We asked Joy Dunlop of Covid Choral Workshops the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
The ‘Covid Choral Workshops’ series is the brainchild of Gaelic singer and choral conductor Joy Dunlop, created as a way of sustaining Gaelic choral singing during the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea for these workshops came after Joy noticed that whilst her own Gaelic choristers were initially keen to attend online practices once social distancing measure were enforced, it was tougher to sustain interest after the postponement of the 2020 Royal National Mòd. Removing this workable goal meant that enthusiasm levels were beginning to drop and it was obvious that choristers were growing tired of rehearsing songs that they wouldn’t perform until at least the following year.
As a result, she decided to trial a Saturday workshop that would be open to anyone with an interest in Gaelic choral singing. No prior singing or Gaelic experience was necessary and you didn’t need to be a member of a Gaelic choir. The workshops would be an opportunity to virtually meet with fellow choristers and learn and/or revisit some of the more common Gaelic choral repertoire.
Despite her initial uncertainty, the first Zoom session attracted 48 members; not only from across Scotland, but the entire globe! Since then, the workshops have gone from strength to strength and there are currently 67 singers registered, from 23 different choirs and with 4 singers regularly zooming in from Australia. The workshops are held every two weeks, with 13 sessions undertaken so far.
The workshops begin with a series of vocal warm ups, before Joy teaches repertoire from the ‘Blue’ and ‘Purple’ books produced by the Association of Gaelic Choirs. These are the songs most likely to be performed at massed choir events and the hope is that when choirs are allowed to sing together again, workshop participants will have the confidence to join in.
Why are you involved in Scottish music?
Quite simply – because we love it! We firmly believe that choral singing is good for the soul and the Gaelic choral community feels more like a musical family than a group of choral acquaintances. Whilst the love of singing and Gaelic music is what unites us, it’s the friendship that binds us. The social aspect of our workshops has been just as important and the educational side – particularly in this difficult Covid time, when we’re not allowed to meet with our local choirs.
It feels like the old Gaelic saying has never been more relevant – Thig crìoch air an t-saoghal, ach mairidh gaol agus ceòl. (Life may end but love and music will endure)
Any particular career highlights?
Initially, Joy was not only teaching all the parts but leading the songs too but her goal was to support group learning by encouraging other singers to take turns at demonstrating different part lines. As a result, all choristers have now lead at least one part on their own – the first time that many have ever sung solo in person or virtually. This increase in confidence has been one of the biggest developments over the last four months and something of which that Joy is exceptionally proud.
Joy also taught a special Covid Choral workshop as part of virtual Gaelic weekend TIONAL, featuring four singers from the group. Whilst none of them are fluent Gaelic speakers, they instantly agreed to participated in a Gaelic medium event; flawlessly demonstrating lines and leading individual parts. The fact that choristers were willing to do this, was amazing – particularly as one of them was zooming in from Australia!
What are your plans for the future?
Whilst initially the ‘Covid Choral Workshops’ was supposed to be a short term project, initial feedback has shown that there is a real want and need for this type of online engagement – especially for choristers in more remote areas or abroad. It’s also been an absolute pleasure for Joy herself to lead this workshops series and it’s something that she intends to continue until choirs can safely meet again.
The MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards, Na Trads 2020, will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on 12th December 2020 at 9pm where the award winners will be announced along with specially recorded music performances. During the day on Saturday the 12th, you will be able to watch from 1pm til 9pm a day of live Scottish trad music including Kinnaris Quintet, Dallahan, Inyal, Paul McKenna Band, Ryan Young and Jenn Butterworth and many more here https://youtu.be/amByvVzxl5E. Keep up to date with all the latest information by joining the Hands Up for Trad newsletter at https://handsup.link/Newsletter or use the hashtags #natrads #HUFTonline.
If you would like to support Hands Up for Trad in their work with Scottish trad music and musicians please consider supporting our Patreon campaign. We have 3 tiers starting at $1 a month and everything helps support us in our work. Read more at www.patreon.com/handsupfortrad