NEW YORK – The Pancyprian Choir had been rehearsing for a tribute concert in honor of Mikis Theodorakis which would have been performed at the end of May, but the coronavirus had other plans. The final in-person rehearsal for the Choir before the lockdown was held back in early March and then Artistic and Music Director Phyto Stratis informed the Choir members that rehearsals would have to take place online.
The first virtual Choir rehearsal was held as a Facebook Live event with Stratis going over the songs and the different voice sections with the help of the Choir’s soloists, including Demetris Michael and Ariadne Panagopoulou. The rest of the Choir members sang on their own at home, sending comments and emojis, as they followed along on Facebook.
Stratis then organized the subsequent rehearsals as Zoom meetings on alternating Mondays by the different voice sections, the Sopranos would rehearse one Monday from 7-9 PM and the following Monday, the Basses and Baritones from 7-8 PM and the Altos and Tenors from 8-9 PM. This way, Stratis could give individual attention to each singer and make sure that each member of the Choir had learned the notes and lyrics for each of the songs.
The technology which brought the Choir back together did have limits since only one person could speak or sing at a time, the blending of all the voices in harmony could not be realized. Some were logged in on computers and others on their phones so there were sometimes delays or a slower internet connection that affected the sound quality. Still, the rehearsals continued through the difficult days of the lockdown and for many it was a joy to see and speak with friends and fellow Choir members, led by the talented and remarkably patient leader, Phyto Stratis.
He led the Choir, as he does every week, with a genuine love and dedication to the music, sensitivity and understanding for the individual members of the Choir, as well as a keen sense of humor to lighten the mood even in these troubled times. Choir members looked forward to the rehearsals and many times it was the only thing to look forward to during the lockdown when the news was so bleak and so many friends and some family members were fighting COVID-19.
Week after week, the Choir rehearsed the songs which will eventually be performed in a concert, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Stratis noted that the final meeting before the summer break was a virtual party, and everyone had the chance to share their thoughts, best wishes, and memories of the good times from past performances “to give us strength to get through the current situation until we can meet again in person.” It was the first time in months that members from the different voice sections were all together for the Zoom meeting. Stratis used the share screen feature to play clips from the Choir’s 2018 performance, In Foreign Land, and reminisce with the members about the production.
As Pancyprian Cultural Division President Ismini Michaels told The National Herald, the Choir was the only one of the five divisions of the Pancyprian Association that carried on throughout the lockdown and she shared this information at the Association’s meeting on June 29 at The Cove restaurant in Glen Cove, NY, where each division gave a report on their activities. She pointed out that through the online rehearsals, the Choir, with perhaps a few more rehearsals in person, when permitted, will be ready to perform in the next concert.
Michaels also posted on Facebook, “Today, Monday, June 29, the Pancyprian Choir said farewell for the summer to its members through Zoom! We exchanged best wishes for the summer and promised that when the pandemic of COVID-19 allows it, we will meet again for a concert, as before. It is worth mentioning that from April until today they continued their rehearsals through Zoom and with the guidance of the talented director Phyto Stratis. Thank you, Phyto, for everything you do for us and for raising our choir to the height we are now.”
Pancyprian Association President Philip Christopher wished everyone the best for a good summer and for everyone to have a good time and be in good health for when we can return in September. He thanked the Choir and director Phyto Stratis for their efforts, and said, “Congratulations for keeping the Choir together, like the teachers who held Zoom classes, you had Zoom choir.”
The Choir members will be back in September when they hope they will be able to rehearse together again as safely as possible.
More information about the Pancyprian Choir is available on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepancyprianchoir/.