CCC Wins Choral Arts New England Phoenix Award
Choral Arts New England Awards Cambridge Community Chorus for Creativity and Resilience
Cambridge Community Chorus, led by Music Director Dr. Pamela Mindell, has been recognized by Choral Arts New England for its innovation and perseverance through these uncertain times. The Covid-19 crisis has had an enormous impact on choral organizations throughout the region and Choral Arts New England is proud to extend its support to choral communities through the designation of the first-ever Phoenix Awards. CCC, one of 10 choral groups awarded, found creative ways to continue music making, engaging their membership and community through education and innovative performance. From the Facebook pages of Choral Arts and CCC:
Cambridge Community Chorus is honored to be selected by Choral Arts New England for a Phoenix Award. Choral Arts wrote, “The Cambridge Community Chorus not only continued through COVID-19, but flourished! They were able to produce a holiday concert in December 2020 that was shared with community members from nursing homes and homeless shelters; gathered virtually on Zoom weekly to hone their individual skills; and eventually put on a performance of the Fauré Requiem in an MIT parking lot in partnership with several other choral groups in April 2021. Throughout all of this, they remained committed to paying their professional and administrative staff at their regular levels.”
This is a non-monetary recognition that reflects Choral Arts New England’s desire to celebrate the efforts of choirs during this pandemic. Receiving more than 40 applications, Choral Arts New England will recognize Cambridge Community Chorus at CANE’s Annual Awards ceremony Saturday, October 23, 2021 in Wellesley, MA, a live streamed event. In addition, Phoenix Award winning choirs are featured on the Choral Arts New England website.
Choral Arts New England was formed in 1980 as a memorial to Alfred Nash “Bud” Patterson, the founder of Boston’s Chorus pro Musica and an inspiring cultural leader, mentor and model for singers, conductors and composers. Their mission is to provide resources to elevate choral music and creativity in New England, primarily through Alfred Nash Patterson Grants.
Below is the full text of the winning application, written by singers and board members Carolyn Mellin and Jane Whitehead:
Not even a global pandemic could stop the Cambridge Community Chorus from making and sharing music! Though we were unable to gather together for our usual Monday evening rehearsals, we found a silver lining in the three inspiring and innovative virtual Zoom programs created by Music Director, Pam Mindell. For the last year and a half, we have “gathered” virtually each week to practice Vocal Technique, study Choral Masterpieces, and rehearse Choral Repertoire. In addition to refining our musicianship skills, we honed our technological expertise as we each recorded our own parts and submitted them for mixing to create a chorus of voices singing together again.
We did not forget our steadfast orchestra and accompaniment personnel, who were left without a concert to perform with us. We provided stipends to our orchestra manager and instrumentalists and look forward to, as one recipient phrased it, “when this is all behind us and we can get together again to make some great music.”
Perhaps our proudest accomplishment is the staging of Fauré’s Requiem in an MIT parking lot in concert with the Harvard Radcliffe Chorus, Opera on Tap and the Driveway Choir. The outdoor performance featured eight soloists, a keyboard player and 70+ singers who sang from their cars, using a mix of wired and wireless microphones. A cross between a drive-in movie and an open sing, the event brought us all together safely during the pandemic. When our Director mounted a podium and conducted us live for the first time in over a year, as we juggled our mics and scores propped against our steering wheels, we were overwhelmed by the resilience of our chorus, and reminded of the power of music to transcend the hardest challenges, bringing joy and hope to all within earshot.
Requiem in a Parking Lot
On the hot, sunny, windy afternoon of Saturday April 24, CCC teamed up with The Driveway Choir, Opera on Tap (OOT) and the Harvard Radcliffe Chorus (HRC) for a live sing of Fauré’s Requiem in MIT’s Westgate parking lot on Vassar St., Cambridge. Led by former CCC interim Music Director Mike Pfitzer and accompanied by HRC Music Director Edward Elwyn (Ed) Jones at the keyboard, eight soloists from OOT, along with 70 singers from CCC and HRC sang from their cars, using a mix of wired and wireless microphones.
Described as “a cross between a drive-in movie and an open sing,” driveway choir events are one of the few ways choral singers have been able to sing together safely during the pandemic. Thanks to the technical wizardry of Kathryn and Bryce Denney of The Driveway Choir (drivewaychoir.org), who have masterminded over 30 of these gatherings, everyone could hear everyone else through their car radios as our voices were blended using an audio mixer and broadcast on a pre-determined FM frequency. The cars were arranged in two semi-circles facing Mike’s marching band podium, so although the mandatory mask hid his smile and helpful mouthing of the words, we could more or less follow his baton.
As a venue for a Requiem, a parking lot presents challenges. A tent designed to protect Ed Jones from the sun took flight in a strong gust, in spite of being weighted with sacks of gravel. He didn’t miss a note. A rogue car alarm interrupted the opening of “Pie Jesu,” and several car batteries had died by the time we reached “In Paradisum.” The Denneys were unflappable trouble-shooters, resolving all glitches with professionalism and good humor. For CCC singers, perhaps the most emotional moment was when Pam Mindell came to the podium and conducted us live for the first time in over a year, in “He Watching Over Israel,” from Mendelssohn’s Elijah. As we juggled our mics and scores propped against our steering wheels and sang about “walking in grief,” that short taste of what we’ve missed so much reminded us of all that we hope to enjoy again one day very soon.
This event was sponsored by Cambridge Community Chorus with support of a grant from the City of Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Grant Program for Cambridge non-profit organizations.
CCC Sings Online!
A Holiday Tradition Comes Home
Among the most beloved of CCC traditions are our Holiday Sings. Every December small ensembles of singers gather at assisted living facilities, libraries, shelters and town centers to bring music of the season to our community. Though we will miss all the familiar faces and voices that join us in song, we are committed to ensuring that everyone can still enjoy a round of Shalom Chaverim or Silent Night. Through the magic of technology, we’ve recorded our favorites to share with all the places we usually visit in person. We hope that our holiday music will bring joy and peace.
Three of the communities we sing for serve the homeless populations, a mighty task during the pandemic. Would you like to make a donation to one or all of them? Click the name for each below.
The centerpiece of CCC’s origin story, Handel’s Messiah was the first work the chorus performed in 1990 under the leadership of founding director, William Thomas. The beloved oratorio remained a staple of the chorus’ winter season, and in collaboration with members of St. Paul’s (AME) and St. Bart’s, transformed into our beloved annual community Messiah Sing. This year, adapting to circumstances, CCC participated virtually in two “sings”: one with The Worcester Chorus, live-streamed from Mechanics Hall; the other, for our own community, singing via Zoom with concerts recorded in previous years. Hallelujah!
Soup to Science: The Magical Mix of Social Hour
Comfort food, cutting edge science, holiday crafts, ugly sweaters and favorite pandemic reading have all been on the menu at CCC’s Thursday 7:00– 8:00 p.m. Social Hour. Hosted by board members and open to all CCC singers with no sign-up or fee, Social Hour also premiered the first recordings from the Choral Repertoire module – bravi! bravi! This is a forum for friendly chat, with only one rule: no politics. A regular participant says: “I love the social hour because I get to see and speak to other chorus members, whom I miss a lot! Usually there are some very interesting things to share!”
This group has been together for 30 years, and we are not about to disband because of a mere global pandemic!
-Carolyn, CCC Singer
CCC Sings On!
Not even a global pandemic can stop Cambridge Community Chorus from making music! We may not be gathering at St. Bart’s, but every Monday evening more than 80 singers are enjoying three inspiring virtual programs created by Music Director Pam Mindell, offered weekly in 45-minute sessions via Zoom. “We are finding a silver lining to this whole experience,” says Pam. She assures us that as weird as it is to hear ourselves singing solo, it’s going to make us better musicians and more confident singers when we DO get back together.
Choral Repertoire – From the lovely Scottish ballad “Annie Laurie” to Christopher Tin’s contemporary, upbeat “Baba Yetu” sung in Swahili, Pam’s creative energy keeps us singing together.
Vocal Technique – Lip trills in the kitchen, solfege on the sofa…. CCC’s Vocal Technique module keeps us in shape while we sing at home.
Music History/Choral Masterpieces – This module has provided an unexpected opportunity to access the brilliance of our music director beyond her conducting. Each week we are treated to a virtual master class in music history, exploring the intricacies, nuances and surprises of the great works of the choral canon.
Keeping the “community” in Cambridge Community Chorus
Early last spring, CCC helped some of our wonderful orchestra personnel with monetary gifts. We paid our orchestra manager, who had hired the players for our canceled May 15, 2020 concert. We also sent small payments to the instrumentalists already preparing for that concert. As one told us, “…your very thoughtful gesture reminds me how kind the people I work with have been, and I’m very grateful… I find myself constantly looking forward to when this is all behind us and we can all get together again and make some great music.”
We echo that sentiment!
Until we meet again… click below and join us in remembering our December 2019 production of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert.
From Our President
To our devoted fans, loyal audiences, generous donors:
Cambridge Community Chorus is alive and well! Since early in the pandemic, we have stayed active and engaged with Zoom rehearsals, Summer Sings, Open Mic Nights, and many other activities to connect our community musically, socially, and personally.
While we await a safe way to sing together again, we have creative plans for Fall & Winter 2020 to further our music skills and knowledge, and to prepare our repertoire for that wonderful day when we can sing for you again.
To get in touch with us, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish you well and would love to hear from you!
From all of us, a sincere thank you for your continued support.
Megan M. Kemp CCC President