Troy Harvat- Staff Writer
COVID-19 has led to many complications and new guidelines around the world. Dordt’s choral program is no different. The need for masks has been a hindrance to the singers, but they understand why it is necessary to wear them. Unfortunately, the masks that students would normally wear hurts their ability to breathe and produce proper diction; that is, their consonants would be muffled and lost in the cloth.
Having predicted these issues, Dordt’s music faculty searched for an answer. Director Ryan Smit ordered masks specifically designed for use by singers in late August. However, due to back order, the majority of the masks didn’t arrive until September 16th. They searched through several different options before choosing to use the masks.
“We did do our homework,” Smit said. “We wanted to put in plenty of time and research before making our decision; it was a significant financial investment.” Though the total price for all the masks was nearly $6000, they drew from a fund set aside for situations like this.
His Chorale students had positive feedback on the new masks: “I don’t love masks, anyway,” one said, “but it’s definitely easier to sing and breathe in the singer’s mask.”
The masks are made to create a tented space between the wearer’s mouth and the fabric of the mask, allowing easier breathing and less interference when singing.
“My lips aren’t brushing up against the mask every time I open my mouth, which is helpful,” another student said.
During the first few weeks of the semester, students in the various choirs wore their regular masks. The first Chorale practice had to be held outside before they tried splitting up into four smaller groups. After difficulties and negative feedback, Professor Smit requested permission to hold practice inside the auditorium while practicing social distancing.
“It’s almost impossible to hear anyone else around me,” one bass singer said. “I can barely hear the tenors, and I can’t hear the altos at all.”
Due to the size of Chorale, COVID-19 guidelines prohibit them from practicing in the choir room. Smaller ensembles, like the 4th Avenue Singers and Bella Voce, are allowed in the rooms as long as they practice social distancing. The men’s choir, Canons of Dordt, is also allowed in the choir room, but they are a large enough ensemble that they cannot remain in one room for the total hour-and-a-half of practice. Due to their size, the Canons must move from the choir room to the band room about halfway through practice, or vice versa.
“The plan we have now seems to be going as good as it can” Smit said, “It’s coming slowly, but we’re making progress, and I think we’ll be prepared for our performances in October.”