“Try something new.” “Be adventurous.” “Think outside the box.” These are just a few of the catch phrases bantered about in leadership discussions, books, conferences. Many times, I’ve heard someone in leadership suggest we “quit trying to beat a dead horse.” The 43rd season of the Hickory Choral Society was anything but typical. Along with the other arts organizations, we had to practically rethink everything concerning meetings, rehearsals, concerts, and performances. I realized quickly, this season would have very little resemblance to previous seasons and the needed leadership priorities would not be like my previous term as president many years ago.
Our first priority, of course, was safety. We were committed to protecteng our singers, audience, and staff, making every effort to follow recognized protocols for Covid-19 pandemic precautions. We recognized, hoped, and believed for the day when we would return to something “normal” and wanted to do all we could to make sure we were all here to move forward.
At the same time, we had the challenge to continue to thrive and bring something of value to our community and audience. Providentially, we were, and are, fortunate to have the leadership of Dr. Ryan Luhrs, our Artistic Director. We will not casually throw out the word “innovative” in the future without giving thanks for Ryan’s passion, courage, commitment, and decisive direction puttng in place virtual rehearsals and virtual performances.
The virtual rehearsal, I feel safe to say, was new to all of us. Essentially, it was just a singer in a secluded space listening to the director and singing one part. This is hard when singers are so accustomed to being together in a room and hearing a live piano and up to seven other parts simultaneously. Add to that the challenge of hearing one’s voice on the recording and trying to have the courage to submit something you’re not sure is adequate, it makes for a serious learning curve. Throughout the process, Ryan was all encouragement, “be brave.”
On the journey to producing virtual performances for our audience, we experienced some virtual face time with three of our composers. It was exciting and memorable to dialog with Karen Morolli (“Undivided”), Rosephane Powell (“Christus Natus est”), and Joshua Shank (“Alleluia (from quarantine)”). We were also celebrating as we premiered two of these works.
Along with brave singers, we were also blessed with an effective support staff and continued strong support from the community. Purchasing necessary equipment, pursuing virtual rehearsals, and producing virtual performances would not have been possible without the financial support of our membership. Raising more than two thirds of our annual membership drive was a monumental achievement. Add the support of the United Arts Council, Salt Block Foundation, and a phenomenal inaugural golf tournament, and the HCS was able to meet their obligations and prepare for a successful 44th season.
Are there still challenges ahead, sure, but with the experience and wisdom gained during the past year, HCS is positioned to continue to thrive as we move forward. -Kyle C. Canerday