Who would’ve thought anything good could come out of this pandemic?

When the very act of singing was singled out as a risky activity, it was a double whammy for those singers who are “herd animals.” Choristers need to gather in groups, so their prospects in 2020 were looking grim, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

When the pandemic hit in March, Vallejo Choral Society shifted to online gatherings and a hodgepodge of programming to keep its community intact, and in June it produced a Guest Lecturer Series led by renowned Bay Area choral directors, which saw surprising success with attendees from all over the Bay Area, and beyond. 

It was clear that choral enthusiasts craved the connection and a channel for keeping music in their lives, so the VCS Board collaborated with Artistic Director Derek Tam to design a unique online program to open its 103rd season. In September, it launched a 13-week series on the Bach Mass in B Minor that was part rehearsal and part music-appreciation course. About 35 people tuned in every Wednesday night as Derek led them on a Bach odyssey like no other.

“I like the opportunity to explore the history and composition of the beautiful Bach Mass,” said Suzanne Awalt, a Benicia choral singer of four decades. “I am surprised at how much I am enjoying Derek’s teaching and the low-pressure chance to sing right here at home.” 

Suzanne and other experienced singers taking part in the program understand the rare opportunity to sing this Bach masterwork, which is especially challenging and seldom performed. “I have discovered that I am capable of learning and performing challenging choral music in small bites. That is the best part. It is very gratifying to still be able to make music by means of modern technical support.” Suzanne added, “I look forward to the sessions. Derek is delightful and enthusiastic about classical music. He makes it fun and accessible.”

On Saturday, December 5, at 4 PM, VCS invites the public to a free finale performance that will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Derek and VCS President Laura Pyles will present virtual-choir performances of several movements from the mass that the group created throughout the Bach program, including the Dona nobis pacem, which is accompanied by professional Baroque instrumentalists.

VCS will continue its online programming in 2021, and all are welcome to take part. Take it from Suzanne, “If you are an appreciator of outstanding choral music and want a deeper dive in a low-pressure setting, this is a great opportunity.”

For more information, visit the VCS website at www.vallejochoral.org, email info@vallejochoral.org, or call 707.653.6827.