Music during the pandemic: how King’s societies are dealing with restrictions
From masked theatre rehearsals to Instagram a cappella arrangements
The pandemic has ushered in stark changes to a number of aspects of university life. In a time when art has become an all-important creative outlet and escape, students have needed their societies more than ever. We interviewed four music and performance groups at King’s to learn how each one has reorganised themselves, and to find out how they continue to share their art and connect with members during this strange time.
Choir of King’s College London
The King’s Tab spoke to Jaison Jeyaventhan, a first-year Music student and choral scholar with the Choir of King’s College London about his experience as part of the choir this year. Jaison states that adapting to new Covid circumstances “hasn’t been easy” but is “definitely something we’re slowly getting used to.”
“The number of commitments the choir usually have has significantly decreased,” he added. “We usually rehearse and perform 3 times a week, but this has now decreased to 1-2 a week.” Since the Choir cannot have an audience at their services, they “livestream them on YouTube so that anyone can watch at home instead.”
The Choir of KCL has been performing services in the King’s Chapel socially distanced and with masks on, in a limited capacity. Speaking about this, Jaison said: “I personally didn’t think that we would have a nice sound with a face mask on, but this hasn’t been the case! Although it’s harder to hear everyone else, I think it’s great how we’ve still been able to come together and sing amazing repertoire.”
Jaison went on to say that since the full choir isn’t performing together due to social distancing rules, “it’s been harder to get to know everybody” as a new member. He went on to say that the choir “meets every week on Zoom, chats on our group chat and has social events” but it’s obviously “not quite the same.”
He also gave some insight into what it’s like to be a musician during this time: “I’ve found myself talking to and working with people from all over thanks to Zoom, something I probably wouldn’t have found the time to do if we weren’t in lockdown.”
Jaison added: “Although it’s sad that we can’t have live performances, I’m especially grateful that thanks to online platforms, we can still create and showcase art and in some respects, reach a wider audience.”
More information about the Choir of King’s College London can be found here.
The King’s Tab also spoke to Jeremy Pui, a third-year Law student and Musical Director at Kadence, King’s first mixed a cappella group. He said: “Kadence has adapted to the current climate by adjusting the focus of our sessions. Instead of practising our individual parts as in a traditional in-person rehearsal, we catch up every week on a group call to socialise, discuss upcoming arrangements and future plans for the group.”
Jeremy said that virtual meetings have “surprisingly made our sessions more productive, as elements of in-person practice like part learning are done in our own time. Having a group schedule has also helped keep us accountable.” Speaking about the group’s future aims, he said: “Our main objective for the year is to consolidate our sound and identity. We’re aiming to produce consistent content on our platforms to achieve this.”
Kadence has so far produced 2 virtual a cappella arrangement videos per week since their inception. On this topic, Jeremy said: “There was definitely an initial learning curve in trying to work out the best ways to mix good quality audio as different members have different recording setups. A majority of our audio is actually recorded as iPhone voice memos.” He added: “I’ve had a bit of past experience with basic audio engineering for a cappella and it’s been great to put this into practice with the group.”
The major downside of being in an a cappella group during the pandemic, he said, is “not being able to meet other people in our group.” He stated that he “hasn’t met a majority of our members beyond our Zoom calls, but we hope to meet in-person as soon as we can.”
Jeremy also said that in a period when in-person interaction is restricted, it is “great to still be involved in music.” He went on to say: “I’ve wanted to be involved in a collegiate a cappella group like this for a while, and I’m so glad that we’re able to create music that we enjoy despite being scattered across the globe. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do so far.”
More information about Kadence can be found here.
The Rolling Tones
The King’s Tab spoke to Annie Whyte, a third-year English student and President of the a cappella group The Rolling Tones about the changes taking place this year. Annie said that “adapting to online rehearsals was definitely tricky at first, but we’re getting used to it!” The group has “split rehearsals into smaller groups, so that the MD only has to focus on a few parts at a time. We’ve also shortened our sessions as we’ve found people tend to focus for less time over video call than in real life.”
She went on to say: “We’re still aiming to get back to in-person rehearsals if it becomes a possibility, but in the meantime, we want to keep a sense of community in a time where it’s easy for people to feel isolated.”
As for this year’s events, Annie said, “We’ve had to completely cut out performances so far this academic year since we’re not allowed to all meet up. Depending on government restrictions next term, I’m hopeful we could still get one or two gigs in!
“The priority will always be keeping people safe, so we’ll see,” she added.
More information about The Rolling Tones can be found here.
King’s Musical Theatre Society
The King’s Tab spoke to various committee members at King’s Musical Theatre society about how they’ve adjusted to restrictions regarding music and theatre. They said that doing so has “been difficult” because “as a musical theatre society, we rely so much on being able to be together in big groups on campus, and singing and dancing together.”
Speaking on this year’s events, they added: “In the first month of term, KMT held auditions for a virtual showcase that featured freshers and new members. We are now going ahead with two main stage shows with a staggered timeline, hoping to perform them in Spring 2021.”
The group has “gone with a combined approach of in-person rehearsals in groups of 6, and some virtual rehearsals with bigger groups. We’ve also had people who haven’t been able to come in in-person (when isolating or travelling home etc) call into in-person rehearsals as well.”
Even though the final outcome of rehearsals may be a bit uncertain, they feel that “it’s so fun to perform music and theatre with friends, and it’s great that we have a way to get out from behind our computers!”
More information about King’s MT soc can be found here.