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Summer 2020 – Sustaining Connections Online

slow jam online

Summer 2020 was different from any other and noteworthy for so many reasons. While our usual summer camps were either canceled or moved online, the transition to online learning brought some unexpected program growth and new opportunities.

Reconnecting a Choral Community

After putting the Juneberry Community Chorus on hold in March, Patricia Norton focused the summer on reliving the past concerts of the ensemble. Forty-five current and former members of the chorus–about a third of the membership over its four-year history–met weekly online to sing through songs from previous concerts. Each week, Norton distributed sheet music and recordings of favorite songs, and then led a live sing-along over Zoom. Singers joined for many reasons- to keep their voices strong, to maintain social connections in the group, and to relive the excitement of past performances.

Nostalgia Sings brought up all kinds of good memories, and both laughter and tears in abundance. A Juneberry Community Chorus member expressed what many singers said, “I loved remembering and singing these beautiful songs.” Another singer wrote,  “I really appreciate all the thought and energy and love you pour into your healing work. It has been supportive to me in the limited time I have had to listen and sing to your weekly selections…”

Traditional Music

Summer usually means traveling to music camps in the traditional music communities, whether as teachers or participants. With most camps canceled, our English Country Dance (ECD) Music Sessions and Traditional Music Slow Jams both continued meeting over Zoom bi-weekly. Loyal session players as well as newcomers from near and far joined the groups to learn new tunes and play along together in a community. UVMC’s fiddle teacher Amy Cann and local fiddler George Fowler co-led the Slow Jam sessions, with participants requesting favorite tunes and occasionally taking a turn to lead the group.

Participants have tuned in from as far away as Canada and Denmark, sometimes rounding up the whole family to play along. Connections have also been made with participants in places like Boston and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, who wouldn’t normally travel so far for a session, but can tune in for a Zoom.

Individual Lessons

Individual lesson teachers also had mostly clear summer calendars, and found their students eager to continue their regular schedule throughout the summer. Those families who were lucky enough to travel on vacations that would normally cause a break in the schedule realized that they could join the zoom call from wherever they were–whether a family beach house, or even a campsite. As a result, many students made more progress in their studies than they would have in a “normal” summer.

Diving into Orchestral Repertoire

Mark Nelson conducts a bass in the yard

Along with online discussions, Mark Nelson did some “driveway conducting,” with UVCO musicians playing along with recordings.

When he’s not conducting the Upper Valley Chamber Orchestra (UVCO), or one of the other community ensembles he directs, Mark Nelson is known for his ability to bring music theory and history to life, making the content engaging for all ages through his enthusiasm and depth of knowledge. Though the Orchestra had to cancel their scheduled spring and summer concert, the ensemble continued to meet for online social gatherings, in which Nelson and occasional guests would explore the history and structure of favorites from the UVCO repertoire. This summer, the focus was Strauss’ Four Last Songs and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453, which would have been on the programs of the canceled concerts.