VIDEO: Okanagan choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Members of the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus sing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Members of the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus sing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Debbie Parmenter directs her ‘carbershop’ choir, the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus, in the driveway while the ladies sing from their cars in order to follow health restrictions. (Jennifer Smith - Calendar)Debbie Parmenter directs her ‘carbershop’ choir, the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus, in the driveway while the ladies sing from their cars in order to follow health restrictions. (Jennifer Smith - Calendar)

Navigating current health restrictions has forced many people to abandon group activities. But a group of ladies with a love for music were driven to find a way to still sing together.

Donna Erdman has been singing in the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus for 25 years.

“It’s a positive spirit builder,” said the senior tenor, whose sister Audrey Cunningham also sings with the choir.

The chorus, which is part of Sweet Adalines, had been getting routinely until the pandemic struck and indoor gatherings were cancelled.

But that didn’t stop the ladies, who simply went outside to sing.

A sour note struck when gatherings outside your bubble were banned, silencing the singers.

Director Debbie Parmenter was determined to find a way to bring the group together.

“Music is our reason for living,” said Parmenter.

READ MORE: It’s the little chorus that could, and did

For some of the choir members, the choir is their outlet, passion and only social interaction. Without it, Erdman admits, she did nothing.

Singing along to a recording wasn’t enough. And singing independently and bringing the voices together electronically just wasn’t the same either.

“It’s a soul to soul thing that you just can’t do on the computer,” Parmenter said. “You can’t sing on Zoom, it sucks.”

That’s when Parmenter saw something unique. A choir in Saskatchewan got creative, and technical, allowing everyone to safely follow social distancing protocols by singing in their cars.

“It’s remarkably easy once you know how, the hard part was having the courage to just buy the stuff,” said Parmenter.

She initially thought it was far too technical for her skill set, but now says “it’s pretty fool proof.”

So now the ladies have half a dozen practices under their belt performing ‘carbershop’ style.

“I think that music is especially helpful during COVID because COVID has been so isolating,” Erdman said. “At least this way we’ve kept contact with one another and we’re singing together again.”

Parmenter hopes that other choir directors will see what they are doing and do the same, bringing music back into more people’s lives amid these challenging times.

The chorus also has room to adopt more singers. Anyone interested can reach out via their Facebook page Vernon Kalamalka Chorus Sweet Adalines.

Eventually, the singers would like to be able to roll up to senior residences and get them to tune into their station and hear the live performances.

“Then even the bedridden ones can hear us on the radio,” said Regina Picco, who hosts the car choir at her home, while she tunes in and sings from her trailer.

READ MORE: B.C.-wide #DayofMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15


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