Songs Of Comfort And Joy

by SPARC Youth Blogger Dallis Campbell

Maintaining opportunities in the arts in rural communities is a growing challenge. In the last few years it has become important to me to do what I can to create those opportunities, with help from others in my community. And Covid-19 presents so many more hurdles in creating those opportunities.

It became a reality as Christmas 2020 was approaching that all the Christmas concerts, plays, caroling, and everything else that goes with the season, would no longer be occurring that year. This for myself, and others around me, became a problem as it seemed to drain the Christmas spirit out of so many people. 

I was sitting having a conversation with my faith leader about the season when I came up with an idea for a Christmas concert done virtually. All the videos would be pre-recorded and compiled into a sort of movie. I started reaching out to fellow vocalists and dancers to see if anyone would be interested in performing. Their response was overwhelming. Nearly everyone wanted to participate.  

 

A photo of a computer screen - zoom style meeting. People are pictured singing

Image Description: A photo of a computer screen – zoom style meeting. There are three rows of photos. People are pictured singing

 

I put together a list of the interested performers. I then discussed with everyone what songs they would be interested in performing. Working with them to find pieces that worked well for their abilities and making sure that no one would be performing the same piece.  

While getting the performers together some local businesses showed interest in participating – in any way they could. I decided to reach out to local businesses and organizations to do short videos wishing everyone a happy holiday, allowing them to be a part of the project. The fire department, the local food bank, different faith leaders, small businesses, political leaders, Santa, and more were all included. These short videos were almost like commercials to help ease transitions between songs; giving a brief pause from the performances. 

Some of the performers had me meet them and record for them, using COVID-19 precautions of course. While others were able to send me their videos themselves. I found myself filming the videos, staging the backgrounds to look their best, being a choir director for one of the small groups, and overall being super flexible and just having a blast. 

A friend of mine agreed to help me out by doing the editing once all the videos were in. I was lucky to have him helping me. It was nice to have the stress of the intricate editing process off my chest. He would put things together and try different transitions, and I would suggest edits. I oversaw checking the spelling of all the names of songs, performers, and businesses. We worked easily together as a team. It was important to have people helping. It took some of the work load off when it became too much. My Dad was helpful in reaching out to local businesses and sending out emails for me. As well as being a person I could just talk to about the process because sometimes you just need to vent.  

 

Two men stand in front of a stained glass window. They hold open folders and are singing.

Image Description: Christopher Coyea, and Alex Fleuriau Chateau performing Little Drummer Boy. Two men stand in front of a stained glass window. They hold open folders and are singing.

 

Being from a small town and being a part of the performing arts community, I have always seen it to be important to keep a good network of people. When creating this project, I had so many people who were eager to work with me and help me if needed.  

It was wonderful to see how happy it made people to be part of a project like this. The video received over 500 views, which I felt was a great accomplishment. We also received many positive reviews.  

I had one participant write me about the experience. They said they enjoyed doing the show from their own home. It gave them an opportunity to be creative. They could set the background exactly right, get the perfect lighting, etc. Although the technical aspect was a bit tricky, once they got the hang of it they were fine. They were glad to see everyone coming together to put the show on even if they could not do so in person. They said if they were given another chance, they would love to do it again. 

Another participant told me that with all the negativity and confusion in the media there were so many people looking for comfort. Therefore, they said it was an easy decision when asked if they would take part. While nothing is like the real thing, the virtual concert provided an opportunity to bring some joy to sad hearts. The concert gave them a real sense of purpose. The most poignant moment for them was the closing number. A bunch of the participants filmed themselves singing silent night and my editor pieced them all together to create a virtual choir. They said they were really honored to take part and they pray that it brough comfort and peace to all who watched.

I would consider doing this project again. I would however make a few changes. I would start planning earlier in the Fall, as I had little time between coming up with the idea and jumping headfirst into the project. I would also be strict on deadlines. I allowed people to get extensions on due dates, and many of those people did not end up being in the video as they still did not submit anything. Being strict on the deadlines would have allowed less stress on both myself and my video editor. There were some things that I would likely do again as I found they worked well. I found that for the most part allowing people to pick their own songs made sure they would be interested in performing those pieces. I would continue to have everyone use their smart phones to film as it made sure that the video quality was similar and most people nowadays have a smartphone with a decent camera on it and that have fairly good audio. It also ensured that the videos were in the same format because everyone filmed in landscape.  

Image Description: Johnstown Gospel Singers performing Go Tell It On The Mountain. Pictured are singers in a church, a large cross behind them. They are all standing and signing.

Image Description: Johnstown Gospel Singers performing Go Tell It On The Mountain. Pictured are singers in a church, a large cross behind them. They are all standing and signing.

 

Overall, this project was a great learning experience. I was glad our community could work together to create something that all ages could enjoy. I am glad that I was able to do something that made such an impact on others, it created joy for those involved and for those who viewed the finished project.

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