YORK -- York College offers many experiences to its students, through education and co-curricular activities. The opportunities for students to develop talents and pursue passions are significant in fulfilling the mission. As plans were being made for the fall semester, the question continued to rise, “How can YC offer the York College experience in a time of social distancing and face coverings?”
In a normal year, the York College music and theatre departments would be making preparations for in-person choir performances and tours, several main-stage theatre shows, and the ever beloved Cocoa and Carols. This year, although there have been several obstacles to overcome, the show must go on. The method and delivery may look different but YC will continue to create and share art.
The York College Concert Choir meets three days a week as a whole. Two days a week the group breaks into sections for 30 minutes. In previous years the group typically met five days a week, altogether, for an hour. Instead of the choir rehearsal hall, students gather in the black-box theater, giving more space to social distance. As a result of a generous donation, each member receives a new mask at every rehearsal.
"I am very pleased with the focus and professionalism of the concert choir,” said Dr. Clark Roush, endowed chair for the performing arts and concert choir conductor. “They are starting to make some really good sounds, and in spite of all of the obstacles, they are making it feel like choir is supposed to feel. I love, respect, and appreciate them and their incredible efforts and hearts. They are, as expected, rising to the challenge. It is such an honor to be their conductor and mentor."
“Art is a huge part of my life and I can see the impact it makes on people. It’s such an important part of our daily lives,” said Victoria Miller, a senior biology major from Alamosa, Colo. “While we have to take precautions and ensure safety first, I think that while we do have the ability to make art, we must for those around us and to honor the art itself.”
The Celebration Singers ensemble has chosen to focus their efforts on producing a digital experience for its audience. Generally, this group is a show choir that performs two shows, one in the fall semester and one in the spring.
“With the ever-changing landscape that COVID provides, we are thinking outside the box and finding new ways to create and share music,” noted Amy Fraser, assistant professor of music and director of celebration singers. “Students will learn how to layer tracks and edit accompaniment and personal vocals. It will be a growing experience, but I’m hopeful that it will inspire students to never stop the pursuit of making music.”
“I feel fairly positive about the changes. Dr. Roush and Mrs. Fraser are putting our safety as a primary focus and working rehearsals so we can still be productive and enjoy that community,” said Emma Seilstad, a senior music education major from Council Bluffs, Iowa. “I have had to focus a lot on singing through the mask and having enough breath support to push sound through it. It has been a challenge I didn't personally anticipate but it has taught me to adapt. I just appreciate that I can be on-campus singing with others; something I have missed so much.”
As a result of social distancing and needing more classroom space, the theatre department has unfortunately been temporarily displaced from its home in the Bartholomew Performing Arts Center. The performers are using the Scene Shop Theatre in Gurganus Hall to rehearse and build sets. All cast and crew members have their temperatures checked at the beginning of each rehearsal and continue to wear face coverings.
“Many colleges and theatres across the nation and world are closed this fall due to COVID 19. We have found a way to make it work,” reflected John Baker, associate professor of communication and theatre director. “My actors are working hard to keep the show on track to be performed.”
“John is doing a tremendous job of keeping us all safe. Throughout rehearsals, we all wear face masks and do the best we can to keep our social distance,” commented Kyla Gilstrap, a senior psychology major from Fremont, Neb. “Although it stinks to not see each other’s facial expressions during practice and not being able to interact as much as we want to. It has brought all the cast closer together. At the end of the rehearsal, we all pray and thank God for allowing us to all be together doing what we love but we also pray for those who are sick and dealing with COVID. I think those little moments of prayer are what really bring us closer together.”
“This experience has helped me rediscover my passion for acting,” expressed Chris Martens, a junior theatre and business communications major from Alden, Minn. “It has helped me realize that theatre is more than just making the audience laugh or cry; it's about the change and the growth that happens within me, and in my character. Having limitations on stage has allowed me to focus on some areas of myself as an actor that I was able to neglect before.”
Although there will not be any opportunities to attend an in-person choir concert or a Celebration Singers performance this semester, digital performances of these groups will be shared online in November and December. The theatre department is planning to provide two live-streamed performances of “The Complete History of Theatre” (abridged) by Matt Thompson on October 16 and 17.
York College continues fine arts, in new ways
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