Breathing has been such a topic of stressful news over the last year and a half that we forget that it is actually a calming, soothing and sometimes vibrating peaceful exercise. This is not something Venango Chorus director Beth Orris has forgotten, nor takes lightly.
During warm ups Monday night in a basement of Good Hope Lutheran Church in Oil City, she asked her singers to take some quiet breathes. Then began to quietly ask then hum as they breathed.
This almost hypnotic sound began to build as she would play a note to guide the humming. "Play around, where is the sound is in your mouth?" she asked as she had the singers expand their instrument's possibilities with consciously putting the sound origin in different parts of the mouth and throat. "Try it with your teeth separated," she said.
"If I’m sounding crazy to you," she pauses,,.. "well, get used to it," she laughed.
Sans a very socially distance outdoor gathering last October for fun, the Venango Chorus hasn't performed since their Christmas concert in 2019. Even now there is hesitation to perform or rehearse with the growing umpteenth wave of this bastard virus.
Monday, only twenty showed up to sing. The chorus normally has in the neighborhood of fifty.
"I understand why people are hesitant to come." Orris said as she opened up the rehearsal. "But, boy it is good to see you.”
Dr. William Fee addressed the small group about the importance of vaccines and whether or not folks need a mask. "It's your life," he said emphasizing it is worth trying to keep. He has had patients die from the virus and he told everyone its nothing to take lightly.
As for Orris, who is nervous about the virus's recent uptick, she said they will proceed with utmost caution until otherwise directed. "We’re not going to sing loud tonight, we’re going to keep our particles close to us, she said during warm ups.
So what are they working on?
"The concerts may or may not happen," Orris said. But emphasized how much they just love to sing and create a sound that can only come from combined voices. "I'm calling the season 'for the fun of it,' I stressed [to the members] we might not have a concert or be able to meet each week," she said.
Monday night watching the faces of many in attendance, they lit up at just being able to sing with others. They stayed socially distanced mostly and some continued to wear their masks even while singing, but they sang. And no matter how rusty it may have felt to everyone, itt was still music to Beth Orris ears.