News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Santiam chorus looks to return

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The group has been silent since the COVID-19 pandemic started

By Stephen Floyd

The Santiam Canyon Community Chorus is hoping to return to their regular performance schedule this spring after two years on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, headed by Santiam Hearts to Arts, expected to return to regular rehearsals Jan. 15, but the surge of infections from the Omicron variant caused them to postpone.

They plan to reevaluate their options Feb. 15 and could determine at that time to pick up where they left off before the pandemic, though still with recommended safety measures. 

Hearts to Arts President Jo Ann Hebing said, though the chorus is eager to begin performing once more, their highest priority remains member safety.

“As important as the chorus is, it’s not more important than everybody’s health,” she said.

The chorus postponed rehearsals and performances indefinitely in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. At the time they planned a spring concert series with music by singers and composers who died between 2010 and 2020.

Hebing said they plan to keep this theme if performances return, adding the selection of songs is “really fun to sing.”

The chorus did regroup briefly on Dec. 18, 2021, for a Christmas performance at Stewart Hall for the Mill City Odd Fellows. Rehearsals began in late fall, and returning chorus members were required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and wear masks.

Hebing said these restrictions discouraged some members from returning, while other former members had moved out of the area or had other commitments. 

Around two thirds of the group did come back and Hebing said both chorus members and the audience had a good time.

“We did well and everybody enjoyed the party,” she said.

A return to the spring schedule could bring multiple performances in the coming months. Hebing said, before the pandemic, the chorus performed at numerous venues including the state capital, the Oregon Garden, local churches, and other community venues. She said each year was unique and showcased chorus members’ individual talents and backgrounds, from Disney tunes to Broadway.

If the spring season does return, Hebing said this is a good time for new chorus members to sign up. She said joining at the start of rehearsals gives singers the best chance to learn the material they will use throughout the season, though the chorus will not turn away mid-season recruits.

Hebing said all backgrounds and skill levels are welcome, even those with no singing experience, as they will be happy to teach new members the finer points of reading music and voice control. Chorus members will be required to show proof of vaccination and to wear masks during rehearsals and performances, though Hebing said he has purchased special mask attachments that allow the fabric to rest away from a performer’s mouth and nose.

If it turns out a spring season is not practical based on CDC recommendations and other public health guidelines, Hebing said the chorus will still be there to support each other. She said, since being founded in 2004, the chorus has become close-knit, offering emotional and personal support outside the practice room.

“It was a family even more importantly than it was as a singing group,” she said.

Those with questions, or who wish to join, can visit santiamh2a.org or contact Hebing directly at 503-859-2502 or [email protected].

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