La La Choirs – Remaining Upbeat And Change Ready
The New Normal
It was 5 pm on March the 16th 2020. I was sat in a coffee shop in Plymouth about to leave to go Emmanuelle hall and begin cleaning down all the handles and surfaces with sanitiser. For two weeks I had been disinfecting my venues before anyone arrived and then they would wash their hands before coming into the main room and so on. It was the first of many ‘new normals’ that we had adapted well to. But at 5.30pm Social Distancing was announced and the bottom fell out of my world.
I knew it was coming. Most of us did. But the reality of any life altering change is always much harder to bear than the possibility of it. I cried. I just stood and cried. The thought of not being with my choir family every evening, the thought of those people living alone not having that social contact and then the business side kicked in. How would I survive this? How would I pay my bills? How could I possibly recreate what La La Choirs is without having large groups of people physically together? Now all of that only lasted about a minute. My therapist always made a point of telling me how I process at a speed that’s somewhat unhuman but in this case it was helpful. Pull your socks up was the next thought and off to the hall I went. I knew the message wouldn’t have reached some of my singers so I had to still prepare as if the rehearsal would happen, albeit the last of its kind for a while.
Half an hour later, the hall had been cleaned, chairs positioned two metres apart and fundamentally the good old iPhone, set up ready to go live on Facebook, at the back of the room with a view of me in my usual spot. 17 people turned up and they wanted to stay. So for the first time ever La La Choir session streamed live. One of the choir members responded to people’s comments and relayed questions back to me during the practice. We laughed, we cried, we didn’t hug and I drove home that night wondering what the world would look like the next day.
Over the next week I undertook the steepest learning curve I’ve ever had in my life. I already knew about Facebook live obviously and had prepared my members by gathering them on a new page separate to the ‘likers’ on our official page. We needed a safe space and continuity was going to be key. In a time of chaos for everyone there had to be something that would remain constant and I knew I wanted La La to be that constant for myself as much as anyone else. I spent the daytimes of the week of social distancing prepping video footage for silly sessions with two other choir leader friends and the evenings running a live themed night. I had three guests come to my home and sensibly we interacted with each other, dressed up, chatted, sang and most important of all, laughed and laughed whilst our favourite Queen songs, or Beatles numbers got run through with over 100 people each evening.
By Monday 23rd March no guests were allowed so I went it alone. That first week had been the honeymoon period. Now La La had to do a phoenix and transform. I had to make it work online but it couldn’t run at the crazy pace of theme nights. I simply didn’t have enough wigs for starters! So week by week I’ve been tweaking what La La sessions look like. We have run every single day as normal. I cancelled my week off because I didn’t want to be without them as much as they didn’t want it to stop. When you feel all at sea you need an anchor. La La has been my anchor for 12 years and I know it’s the same for most of my members. I do more work now than ever before because in a virtual world nothing has as much depth face to face. So when you can’t provide depth you provide quantity. After the first five weeks I ran a poll of what people had liked or disliked.
Thankfully it reflected what was happening was making them happy. So I post a video of my daily exercise cycle ride and chat like we are together, we are working on a Big Recording project to give the members a piece of treasure to remember this period positively, choir sessions run every evening Monday to Thursday and on Friday, family and friends come and get quizzy together for the weekly La La Big Night In. We have 150 to 200 people that night. People coming together across the country to team up and debate the questions in their Zoom breakout room. My charades round is now legendary and I have no idea each week how to beat the last but I try. My 18 year old son co hosts and does a ‘young persons’ round each week and cringes with embarrassment whilst I’m impersonating Kim Kardashian for the famous couples charade… Extra sessions are planned for daytimes from next week. Now the partners and kids are around all the time there are many members who just cant find a room alone of an evening. They will cover things like breathing techniques and so on.
For La La Choirs to survive this I must remain ‘change ready’. Very flexible and prepared for the long haul. For all of us. We have always said we are a family and it feels like that now more than ever. I have had my miserable days and my choir family have come to my aid with messages of love. But over all, this time has shown me just how indomitable a spirit La La has. And that’s because of the amazing people in it. As I write on my personal Instagram post every day, I remain #thankfulgratefulblessed