The University Singers are bringing the pops directly to your living room
Watch a world-class pops concert in your pajamas!
- Event: POPs Concert: Virtual Edition
- Date: Saturday, November 21, 2020
- Time: 7:00pm CDT
- Tickets: $10 for students/$15 for adults/$25 for families (To purchase tickets, fill out the form at https://forms.gle/2nhVpta9cxmBd4ML9, and then submit payment via e-transfer to uofmsingers [at] gmail [dot] com. If e-transfer is not available to you, please check “PayPal,” and the University Singers will send you an invoice for your tickets. You do not need a PayPal account to process your tickets via this method. A private Facebook Live link will then be sent to you to enjoy the concert!)
- Questions: Please contact uofmsingers [at] gmail [dot] com.
As COVID-19 continues to sideline concerts, performances, and gatherings, it looked like the University Singers would not be able to partake in their fall term fundraising efforts, which usually include their well-attended annual POPs concert.
But the Choral Ensembles students were dogged and innovative, and have found a way to ensure that the show goes on – virtually.
“Because this event is so much fun for us all we didn’t want the pandemic to get in the way of hosting the event,” says Kyle Briscoe, one of the leaders of the University Singers Council.
Now their audiences will be able to join them for the POPs Concert: Virtual Edition on Saturday, November 21, 2020 at 7:00pm on Facebook Live!
The POPs concert
The POPs concert is an annual student-organized fundraising concert that supports one of the most beloved traditions in the University of Manitoba Choral Ensembles: The University Singers European Tour.
Every two years, the University Singers hop on a plane, and take their gorgeous music to Europe, touring across multiple countries. For many students, it is the perfect end for their university career and introduction to their professional one, and students hold multiple choral fundraisers each year in order to help fund the trip.
This past summer, the trip was, of course, cancelled due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic. Though students were understanding of the need to cancel the trip, they couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“The POPs concert is one of the University Singer’s biggest fundraisers, where you can experience individual acts from the choristers who have the opportunity to branch out of the classical and jazz repertoire they study, and perform repertoire they might not always have the chance to, such as pop, rock, or musical theatre,” says Hannah Johnson, a member of the University Singers Council.
The COVID-19 restrictions have hindered many performances, but the University Singers found that they provided new opportunities to connect.
“What is unique about this year, aside from it being virtual, is that we have invited members from all three active choirs at the U of M as well as some of our alumni,” says Briscoe of the opportunity to include more people than the University Singers had in the past.
In addition to the University Singers, members of the University of Manitoba Women’s Chorus and Concert Choir have been invited to perform.
“The theme of this concert is one of musical togetherness although we are physically apart,” he says.
In order to organize a virtual event, the University Singers had to take into consideration a number of provincial and university guidelines, as well as sort out how to get everyone together for the planning process.
“To be honest, there were many challenges!” says Briscoe.
“We chose to stream this concert instead of just posting the video online because the theme of our concert is ‘Physically Apart but Musically Together’ and just knowing everyone is watching at the same time, we hope this will bring us all a little bit closer together,” says Hannah Johnson, another leader of the University Singers Council who helped to design the concert.
“One of the main things us students have been missing is our sense of community. In previous years a lot of our planning meetings would happen in the library or at break during choir,” he explains.
“This year we quickly realized that we needed to meet once a week over Zoom to make this all happen,” he says.
“Hannah and I both agree that our job as council members involves creating a community of acceptance, warmth, and belonging. This has become more important than ever this year,” Briscoe says.
The group originally hoped to be able to host a concert with at least some in-person elements. However, given the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province, as well as the additional challenges that the students were facing juggling their academics in a pandemic, they decided to go completely virtual.
As fate would have it, Manitoba officials announced a return to lockdown shortly after the Singers announced their concert, so their cautious planning for the unknown paid off!
Expect the unexpected
In putting together their program, the University Singers Council found that they had new freedom to offer up different styles of performances.
“The scope of this concert has no limits!” says Briscoe.
“Because of the pandemic situation we asked that the acts are individually produced, meaning we have excluded any large group performances from our program – a large portion of our acts will be solos or duos,” says Briscoe.
The University Singers Council also worked to make sure that any act with two or more performers received a list of COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure that the performers adhere to public health policies.
“We are monitoring our provincial health situation closely, and are providing updates to our students in line with the restrictions,” he says.
“We have asked our members to get creative, and to use the medium of video as a new sort of performance canvas. You can expect some classical pop ballads such as ‘Shallow’ from A Star is Born, original arrangements of classics such as ‘Africa’ by Toto, some acts to make you laugh, and so much more!” he says of what to look for in the program.
Luckily for the University Singers, at least one of their members is quite savvy when it comes to the digital world.
“We have asked our members who are considering performing to submit a video of their performances, to be edited together by Cole Hennigar, our Social Chair and Technological extraordinaire!” says Briscoe.
Making the most of a challenge
Despite the unique challenges of this year, the University Singers have delighted in being able to work and perform together, even if a lot of their interactions are through screens!
“Getting to work with a great council team has been a highlight, along with seeing people come together within our community to make this project happen,” says Hannah Johnson of the experience of putting together the concert.
“I have really enjoyed all of the diverse ideas our members have had for the POPs concert this year. It’s really inspiring to me that in spite of the setbacks we are facing our members are rising above that to share their art,” adds Briscoe.
Though putting together the concert has been a lot of work, the group is glad to see it come together, and is looking forward to sharing the final product with their audiences.
“We hope that our audiences feel a sense of belonging in our community and we also hope that it is clear we as musicians can rise above anything and nothing can silence our sound,” says Briscoe.
“Furthermore, as the theme suggests, we want to be able to convey that although we are physically apart we can still be musically together!” he adds.