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Reinventing a Holiday Ritual


​​one male and one female choir student lip-syncingOn a sunny afternoon in November, Rubidoux High School Chamber Singers participated in a unique holiday project. Invited to campus for half-hour increments, small groups of students arrived dressed in their performance attire and stood six feet apart on a grassy hillside. Then they removed their masks and pretended to sing.

Though this may sound strange, the Chamber Singers were enthusiastic about a change in routine. For months, they had been meeting over Zoom, keeping their microphones turned off whenever they rehearsed.
“We’re not in a classroom setting where we can all sing at the same time,” explained Yessica Marin. “With Zoom, if we all sing at the same time it doesn't sound accurate.”
Yet this act of respect for the music they are learning means the students, so used to singing in a group, are no longer able to hear each other.
“We’re so used to being together and now it’s just our own voice,” shared Vanessa Orozco. “It feels a little lonely.”
two female choir students lip-syncingAlong with the loss of their fellow students’ voices, the Chamber Singers are currently unable to perform before a live audience, an experience that lies at the heart of every music class. “We’re not able to see [the audience’s] smiles when we sing,” noted Vicky Bosquez.
For many choral singers, sharing music they have studied with family, friends, and their community is the most powerful aspect of participating in a choir. While nothing compares to a live audience, many choir teachers are relying on audio and Zoom recordings to prepare virtual performances, ensuring that the hard work of their students does not go unnoticed. Jeffrey Lin, Rubidoux’s choir teacher, decided to take things a step further.
With COVID-19 safety guidelines in place, he invited the JUSD Communications Department to film small groups of Chamber Singers lip-syncing to one of their holiday pieces. Though students could not sing, each expression conveyed a similar passion for music and performance. A recording of the chosen song played from a nearby speaker so the students could follow along and maintain a consistent tempo. 
The resulting footage, edited by Mr. Lin and Andrea Putnam, was featured in Rubidoux High School’s Holiday Concert, which streamed via YouTube Live on Monday, December 14th.
three female choir students lip-syncing“At the beginning of the year, I promised our singers that we are going to do everything we can to make this year just like any other,” said Mr. Lin. “Every year around this time, we would be having our annual​ Holiday Concert, and this year is no different. A video concert is a new way for singers, families, and the community to see their hard work come together.”
Though distance learning comes with many challenges, the RHS Chamber Singers have not lost their love of music and performance. In fact, that love has only grown stronger. Like many of her fellow students, Yesenia Villalobos’s participation in choir keeps “[her] mind off everything that’s bee​n happening” and gives her hope. And despite the moments of loneliness, the Chamber Singers continue to feel a strong sense of community with one another.
“No matter how hard the situations are at home, when we get online together we forget about our problems,” shared Abigahyl Beltran. “We just sing and make music all together.”