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The first round of the Peterborough Singers’ series of six-week, in-person singing electives began September 20th. After “exhaustively” checking out best practices and safety protocols and guidelines for in-person singing, the Singers opted to offer small groups of members (16 or fewer) the opportunity to sign up for one of four electives: Vivaldi’s Gloria, Afro American Spirituals, “And All That Jazz,” and the Music of the Renaissance.

Syd conducts while Pam, conductor of the “And All That Jazz” elective, sings at a distance (far left).

The workshops run for an hour on Mondays and Wednesdays, with time between for cleaning and getting participants in and out of our rehearsal space at Murray Street Baptist Church. “Murray Street happens to rate exceptionally well when it comes to safe indoor meeting,” explains Artistic Director Syd Birrell.

Syd is conducting rehearsals of Gloria and spirituals on Monday nights, and Pam Birrell and David Geene, both frequent guest conductors with the PS, share Wednesday nights. All the music selected is perfect for singing in small groups. Large choirs and small professional choirs, like The Sixteen, have recorded Vivaldi’s Gloria. Jazz and spirituals are similarly effective whether performed by big bands and mass choirs or by just a few musicians and soloists.

Renaissance music, too, whether motets, chansons, masses, or madrigals, suits small-group singing well. As David Geene explains, “The music is characterized by a polyphonic style, meaning each voice part moves smoothly and independently to create harmony.” David plans on leading from within the group (he’ll be singing too)! And, of course, singers will be spread out in a physically distanced circle to enable them to hear one another. An added bonus, says David, is that this spread will “also emphasize the independence of musical lines, which are characteristic of Renaissance polyphonic, a cappella music.”


David Geene at the piano, leading from within the choir


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