Welcoming new members every week, rehearsals for the choir started on 17th March and are to continue every Tuesday. However, this is not at odds with current lockdown restrictions: it all happens online.
‘Sofa Singers’ is a virtual group of singers from all over the world who perform weekly from the comfort of their sofas. The group was launched by vocal leader James Sills in response to the restrictions that the world, and in particular the musical world, is currently facing in the battle against Covid-19.
Initially described as an ‘experiment’ by its creator, the choir is open to people from all around the world, with hundreds of digitals spaces up for grabs each week. Those who took part in the first week have now become enthusiastic supporters, with many of them using their social media to write testimonials and share words of praise.
‘Sofa Singers’ relies on the video calling software Zoom, which enables performers to see one another on their screens during the singalong. However, they can’t hear each other – a technical limitation that allows to circumvent any stage fright on the part of choristers.
In other words, ‘sing as if no-one is listening (because they won’t be)’ is the motto, but, as emphasised on the website, singers are encouraged to smile during their performance, as the feeling of being connected is considered just as important as doing music. Before the start of each session, everybody receives their lyric sheet and is then given further instructions before joining the actual performance.
As Sills explained, the inspiration for ‘Sofa Singers’ came after watching videos of quarantined neighbourhoods in Italy performing singalongs from windows and balconies. He then decided to recreate the same kind of heart-warming performance with an online choir.
It’s an initiative that aims to bring joy and a sense of togetherness into people’s lives, in contrast to feelings of anxiety and isolation, which just like the virus, can become pandemic. A message of hope and kindness and a sign that creative arts such as music, coupled with human connection, can have a significant and positive impact during this crisis.
‘Sofa Singers’ is mirrored by similar initiatives internationally, and professional musicians have also started to perform remotely. Rome’s International Opera Choir have circulated their video performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Va’ Pensiero, and several others, including the Arctic Philharmonic to the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, have followed suit, offering virtual concerts or new renditions.