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Artistic Director Syd Birrell, 2020From the Artistic Director to the many friends of the Peterborough Singers,

We didn’t know when we met for our regular Wednesday night rehearsal on March 11th that it would be our last. That was an era many eons ago, when a request to the choir that there be no handshakes or hugging was considered radical by many. The innocence of it all seems quaint at the distance of ten weeks. To speak of cancelling our Verdi Requiem concert scheduled for May 9th was deemed “panic talk”. We worked hard on the Verdi that night, it was an inspiring rehearsal, and as we left we waved at the Verdi crane towering over the former YMCA building. I don’t suppose the Verdi Alliance Equipment Company Ltd knows that under the shadow of one of its 45 tower cranes a choir meets to learn the music of Giuseppe Verdi.
And for this sidelined conductor, the last ten weeks has been a whirlwind of activity. Pam and I persuaded our daughter Rebecca to leave her job, flat, friends and life in London, England and fly back to Canada for the duration. Phew! Then our son Ben decided it would be wise to move home, as he was sharing an apartment with an ICU nurse, and he did not want to compromise my handicapped brother Tony, for whom he provides care. We haven’t had two kids living at home for….8 years. There was the challenge of keeping my brother safe. For thirty years I have hired caregivers to provide him with round the clock care in his own home following a catastrophic waterski accident. And then, wearing my landlord hat:  How do you handle being a student landlord during these times? We decided we would offer 50% rent reduction to any of our tenants who were facing financial woes. And Lakefield College, where I have been chapel organist for 37 years, has continued school with online classes along with as much of school life as can be managed, and that includes our regular virtual Monday chapel, so off I went  recorded organ music for chapel.

And what about the Peterborough Singers?  Countless meetings and discussions and emails, decisions made, only to be scratched the next day as Covid 19 changes our lives at lightning speed. At first we thought Zoom would allow us to rehearse from our homes, but alas, something called latency prevents that from happening. The sound delay makes it impossible for even 3 people on 3 computers to sing something as simple as happy birthday.  I am sure you have seen many lovely you tubes of orchestras and choirs making music online since we enter Covid 19 , but none of those are what you think.  Each voice has been individually recorded and submitted to the tech guys, who then spend a week or so laboriously stitching together each individual recording to create the finished product. Instead of trying to do this, we managed to broadcast our recent Canadian Legends concert performance of Bobcaygeon, with us singing along from our front porches, with our mics turned off, but with the multiple images of a lot of smiling and happy choristers.


For the choir members the big surprise was just how meaningful it was to see their choir friends and to chat live using the Zoom platform. We have decided that we would continue to meet every Wednesday night on Zoom, mostly or social reasons, with as much note learning as possibe. We worked on Verdi’s Requiem, we had an end of season sing along to Daniel Barenboim’s You Tube version of the Verdi, and we then we moved on to virtual pub time.

But it’s not the same, by a long shot. I am writing to you, our audience and subscribers, our supporters, donors, patrons, to say how sorry we were that we could not perform for you on May 9th.  As we develop some clarity on what the future holds, the board will be in touch with you. Many issues have been debated, then new information calls for new debates. At first we blithely moved Verdi to October 3rd.  That doesn’t look so good any more!   Plan A Fall Re-Boot has now been replaced with a more cautious Plan B January start up, though Plan C now looks more realistic….. Please excuse us for taking so long to be in touch. We hope you enjoy our Bobcaygeon song. Next season we had planned a Simon and Garfunkel concert for February, and currently we are preparing a virtual performance of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which we hope to have ready for you at the end of June.

Please stay in touch.  You can each me at or Manager Peg McCracken at the office at Singers . Live performance is something we have taken for granted forever, and now that it is shut down we understand the enormity of the loss.

Best wishes,  Syd

Artistic Director
The Peterborough Singers
Honorary Chair The James Fund at SickKids Foundation
Student Landlord, Author, Speaker


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