The pandemic and subsequent safety restrictions have required many people to get creative with their regular activities. Choirs are no exception to this rule. In-person choir rehearsals are certainly too risky. One ensemble in Mount Vernon, Washington, was infected by a single singer with the virus. After 61 members showed up to an in-person rehearsal in March, 53 members contracted Covid-19, and two members died. Choirs have tried rehearsing on Zoom, but the audio delay makes harmonizing nearly impossible. In order to perform, individual members have to record their pieces, and the director must string it together.
Enter the drive-in rehearsal. In Harrisonburg, Virginia, a choir director realized that the choir could park on his street and rehearse with wireless microphones. He transmitted the resultant sound via FM transmitter so that the singers could listen on their car radios. He conducted from his driveway. The FM transmitter trick is how drive-in movies distribute their sound. It creates practically no delay, thereby fixing the problem with Zoom or other video calls.
While that director, David Newman, started with just a few cars, other choirs have expanded on his idea. A couple in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has now begun orchestrating (pun intended) these safe rehearsals for churches and choral groups along the East Coast. Bryan and Kathryn Denney have a unique aptitude for this new gig: Bryan is an electrical engineer and pianist while Kathryn directs musical theatre productions. Together they are helping groups find the music again after not being able to successfully harmonize together in months. While it is just a side hustle and not their primary career, the Denneys seem to have perfected the process that Newman began, handing out sanitized microphones with ease and leading groups in warmups and hymns.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken much away, it is heartwarming to hear of people using their creativity to find new solutions to bring back the arts. In fact, you could say this story hits all the right notes.