An Update on Our Past Year
When the pandemic hit, the MCC felt the urgency to keep youth involved in the arts and swiftly designed adaptive responses to the emerging challenges caused by COVID. While we were unable to create a performance to end the 2019-2020 season, we did deliver a full 32-weeks of virtual programming and education.
Typically, the MCC artistic staff have summers off, reconvening for the next season in late August. However, due to the uncertainly the pandemic created and the need to understand how COVID-19 was spread, artistic staff continued working all summer long.
Staff spent countless hours researching the pandemic to learn about virus safety issues with singing. From this research, staff created three program scenarios for the 2020-2021 season, unclear whether choristers would be returning to sing together. Scenario one focused on having all in-person programming, scenario two was entirely virtual programming, and scenario three was a hybrid of in-person and virtual programming. Curriculum was developed for each of these scenarios so that staff could hit the ground running once a scenario was approved.
A New Season
The MCC kicked off the 2020-2021 season with an in-person retreat on August 29, 2020, part of the hybrid scenario artistic staff approved to move forward with. On September 8, MCC’s rehearsals started. While rehearsals began virtually, soon choirs began meeting in person on a bi-weekly basis, continuing to meet virtually on off weeks. During rehearsals, singers worked on new music, as well as participated in workshops with global composers.
Program Expansion with Composers Conversations
As you can assume, virtual rehearsals are not ideal. It is nearly impossible for children to sing together online. Once safe, we will return to the classroom to sing together. However, on the flip side, we discovered that we had greater access to nationwide composers and conductors who were all home during the pandemic. These professionals were able to easily join our online rehearsals, and fees were significantly reduced without the cost of travel and on-site needs. Guest composers gave our choristers a new perspective, a deeper understanding of the music they were singing, and helped develop our singers’ voices.
First Virtual Performance
Singers worked on amazing pieces during rehearsals, and all for MCC’s first-ever virtual performance. Artistic staff wanted to make the concert a special experience for our singers, recreating that feeling singers get from an in-person concert as best they could. To accomplish this, the artistic staff held a virtual concert recording event. On November 14, MCC singers were given the red-carpet treatment, complete with photo-op. Each singer then took 30 minutes to record their pieces, being led by their Conductor behind the scenes. The virtual concert recording event was a success. Our kids really felt appreciated and excited for the music they were creating. After the completion of the individual recordings, a firm was hired to create video content for the virtual concert.
On December 12, Family: A Virtual Concert premiered. Choristers sang about supporting each other, belonging, and growing stronger together. It was a beautiful moment seeing our singers connect with their families and the Milwaukee community. You can see this performance on the MCC YouTube Channel.
The MCC also held a watch party where individuals gathered prior to the concert. While we were unable to gather in a room together, we were still able to celebrate together online. During the watch party, the artistic staff talked about the semester, the challenges COVID-19 caused, and how we continue creating top-notch choral music education. This also gave us just a moment to reconnect with the community in this time of isolation. Again, the event can be viewed on the MCC YouTube Channel.
Second Semester Kickoff
Following the virtual performance, our singers went on break for Holiday. However, they returned in January for the second semester, and with 15 brand new MCC choristers in tow who joined the choir over break. The second semester kicked off with an in-person rehearsal, returning to the bi-weekly schedule used during the fall semester.
Choristers continued to learn new music for their next virtual performance called Unique. This mini-concert featured songs with unique rhythms, unique instruments, and even unique voices. It highlighted the differences that make each of us special, and when those differences come together, we make amazing music. Unique premiered on February 27 and was received with great praise by our families and community. Check it out for yourself on the MCC YouTube Channel.
End of Season Performance
While the 2020-2021 season is winding down, it is not over yet! The MCC will close out the season with one of the most ambitious, creative collaboration in our 27-year history. The concert will not just showcase MCC singers, but will feature artists from “Sesame Street” and Broadway’s “Aladdin,” local performers, and MCC alumnus Graycie Gardner. The pre-recorded virtual experience will premiere on Facebook Live and YouTube on May 15.
The virtual concert will also be the finale of our Give2Sing fundraising campaign. Starting April 30, the campaign goal is to raise $10,000 to help turn limitations caused by COVID-19 into opportunities for our singers. Throughout Give2Sing, we will share behind-the-scenes looks of MCC choristers continuing their passion for music despite singing apart. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for this inside look or visit our website to learn more.
What’s still to come
First on the docket is an MCC summer camp. That’s right! With kids behind in music and the performing arts, we want to give them new opportunities and help make their voices more boisterous. Stay turned to learn more.
We’ve also created a new program called Music Unites. This after-school program brings music directly to Milwaukee children, removing financial and/or transportation barriers to experience the arts. Music Unites will focus on music from underrepresented populations and will mirror the students in the classroom. When musical pieces reflect the classroom, you are educating children outside the culture and empowering those within. We venture to affect the next generation of artists, so they can positively impact our community.
And it doesn’t end there. We will be back with so much more to give singers during MCC’s 2021-2022 season. We remain committed to supporting Milwaukee youth, their education, and their passion for singing.