Don’t take the title of the San Antonio Chamber Choir’s virtual concert on Thursday too literally.
Sing For Life! is not the choir singing for its life after dropping from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts list of resident performance companies. The YouTube concert is meant to celebrate a gradual return to normal life beyond the pandemic that shut down the choir’s operations and to raise funds for continuing operations.
The choir’s absence from the Tobin Center’s rolls is hopefully temporary, said Roland Barrera, executive director. It dropped because it didn’t meet the requirement of doing at least half its shows at the Tobin. A contract is currently being prepared for a return to the Tobin Center stage in December, followed by a live performance in February 2022.
“We’ve been able to stay afloat this whole time,” Barrera said of the 15-month shutdown, thanks to a Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan and reduced expenses, but “of course, it’s been a challenge like no other.”
Not being in the same room together has been a particular challenge for choir members, who normally would sing together frequently, he said.
“We’ve all been resilient,” Barrera said. “And we’ve had plenty of other opportunities to gather informally online and stay connected.”
The group managed to pivot its annual youth music summer camp online, and in September 2020 Artistic Director Rick Bjella put together Rightfully Hers!, a virtual program to honor the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, with a mix of past group performances and individual actors and singers performing from their homes.
Sing For Life! will use a similar format, with a combination of past and current performances by choir members and members of the board of directors, interspersed with informative interviews. Selections will range from 16th century plainchant, a form of ancient devotional choir music, to “The Song That Goes Like This” from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus musical Spamalot.
Viewers interested in donating to the cause will have ample opportunities during the nearly four-hour concert, Barrera said. “It’ll be a nice way to engage people and remind them that every gift counts.”
A portion of the proceeds will support the Alamo City Street Choir, a group started by Bjella and sibling Tracey Bjella Powers comprising members of the church’s congregation of homeless and needy people. Served by Corazon Ministries at the Travis Park Church, the choir was able to return to rehearsals in May, Barrera said.
As the pandemic recedes, the All-State for All youth summer choir camp will also return to in-person programming at Alamo Heights High School July 15-17, but Barrera said the virtual programming created during the shutdown will remain available online on the choir’s YouTube channel.
This article was updated to clarify how the choir dropped from the Tobin Center’s list of resident performing companies.