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Student ringers and singers 'Together Again' at Burnaby school district holiday concert

Members of three Burnaby school district ensembles will raise their voices and handbells in song on Dec. 12 for their first in-person winter concert since COVID restrictions silenced them in 2020.

Tis some weeks before Christmas and all through Burnaby schools three district ensembles are preparing for their first live holiday concert in two-and-a-half years.

District ensembles bring together students from across the district, and on Dec. 12 the CoroVoce youth choir, Piccolini children’s choir and Sound Wave handbell choir will take to the stage at Michael J. Fox Theatre for Together Again.

The last time these three groups put on their annual winter concert was in December 2019, shortly before COVID-19 shut down live performances and in-person rehearsals.

“I think it’s just going to be a magical, beautiful evening celebrating all that is great in Burnaby and the celebration of being together again after so long,” said Janet Nordstrand, longtime director of Sound Wave.

With social distancing and other COVID restrictions, Nordstrand said music education at Burnaby schools hasn’t been the same since March 2020.

“We were coming up with completely new ways to teach music and to come at this skill set that we’re trying to develop and build with our kids and be creative,” she said. “Finally to be back to see my risers full of kids singing, it’s really emotional.”

Adam Turpin, director of Picollini, agreed.

“It has been wonderful getting the children back and making music together,” he said. “Over the past couple of years, I have had families emailing and students asking when we were going to get back to rehearsing. When we finally decided that we could do it, we instantly got such positive feedback.”

While music teachers are happy school concerts and classes have resumed, there’s also something particularly special about getting together with colleagues and organizing a district-level performance with students and teachers from other schools, according to Nordstrand.

“We’ve all been isolated on Zoom meetings since March 2020,” she said, “and so to sit in my livingroom together and to dream about pulling this together again, it just was so exciting."

CoroVoce director Teresa Jukich said Together Again has been a “threefold blessing” in her world.

“After two-and-a-half years, it is so wonderful to see the bliss on the faces of our students as they once again join together in song,” she said. “As well, our amazing CoroVoce team of (accompanist Bonnie Ishii), (manager and accompanist Sheila Little) and myself have reconnected, and the years have just melted away. And a final blessing is joining all three of our groups together to ring and sing with joy.”

Along with singing and ringing, however, all three directors have also had to teach their student musician another essential skill: performance.

Thanks to COVID restrictions, many have never sung or played in front of a live audience before.

“They’re more nervous, more excited,” Nordstrand said, “so I’m helping navigate talking about how they’re going to feel when they look out and there’s 400 parents sitting there.”

Sometimes the extra nerves and excitement can send the performance to the next level, according to Nordstrand, but not always.

“I honestly don’t know what we’re in for,” she said with a laugh.

Together Again will feature pieces by Sound Wave, Piccolini and CoroVoce as well as a few mass numbers with all three.

The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12 at Michael J. Fox Theatre (7373 MacPherson Ave.).

Tickets are $5 at the door.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor