Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Dubai church choir performs from home for front-line workers

The video is a message of hope as churches remain closed due to Covid-19 restrictions

Social distancing has not stopped a Dubai church choir from recording performances from their homes to boost the morale of frontline workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Christian Voices Chorale, of Filipinos who attend St Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha, has released videos of dozens of members singing remotely.

The individual musical performances have been combined in a single video.

It also serve as a message of hope as churches remain closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The videos were made as prayer songs for frontline workers as well as a message for hope,” said Edgar Owell Lavarez, 40, who works in Dubai as a banker and sings in the choir.

“We tried at first to perform it over Zoom but there was a delay for a lot of people and it wasn’t synching.

“We had to record all the parts individually and then put them together. We got one of the sopranos to sing her part first and then everyone else took their cues from her.”

The videos were made as prayer songs for frontline workers as well as a message for hope

Edgar Owell Lavarez

On March 16, the UAE announced that all places of worship would have to close to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Since then worshippers have had to adapt as they took to watching live services online.

For many people, churches and mosques are not just places of worship, they also offer a vital lifeline to socialise with friends and family, believes the choir’s conductor Jocelyn Santos.

“We were used to performing the songs at mass every Friday morning and also rehearsing together,” said Ms Santos, who works as a music teacher in a Dubai primary school.

“It’s not just about performing religious songs either, we also sing pop songs and there is a real sense of community among the members.

The Christian Voices Chorale have more than 30 members. Courtesy: The Christian Voices Chorale
The Christian Voices Chorale have more than 30 members. Courtesy: The Christian Voices Chorale

“We have around 30 members and we are used to seeing each other every Friday but that’s changed, for obvious reasons.”

Ms Santos also served as the conductor of a 120-strong choir, made up of members from the UAE’s nine Catholic churches, which performed for Pope Francis during his historic visit last year.

“We’ve been performing together for 16 years and making these videos allowed us to keep in touch and keep seeing each other,” she said.

“It wasn’t easy though to put the video together as we all have day jobs and it took about two weeks to get everything we needed before it could be edited.”

She said the reaction to the videos has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We shared it with friends and over our social media channels and people have responded well,” she said.

“It’s allowed people to reflect and that’s important.”

Fr Lennie Connully, parish priest at St Mary’s, praised the efforts of the choir, adding it was important for worshippers to stay connected with the church during the restrictions.

The Christian Voices Chorale perform at St Mary's Church before social distancing measures were enforced in the UAE. Courtesy: The Christian Voices Chorale
The Christian Voices Chorale perform at St Mary's Church before social distancing measures were enforced in the UAE. Courtesy: The Christian Voices Chorale

“These are difficult times but we still have masses said by priests, who are alone in the church, that are being broadcast online with 7,000 to 8,000 people watching each time,” he said.

“It is very important that people continue to pray from home and don’t lose the connection with the church.”

He said the live screenings have gone down well with parishioners who are watching at home.

“People appreciate still being able to see the mass being said live,” he said.

“There are many families who are watching the services together from home and are praying together and keeping that bond alive.”

Fr Connully said there is no clarity on when the church could reopen and the parish would continue to comply with government regulations.

“Reopening is not in our hands and we’re waiting for further instructions from the government,” he said.

“I imagine once an announcement is made there will still be social distancing rules that need to be followed.

“We are fully prepared to take whatever precautions are needed but there is no indication yet.”

Updated: June 9, 2020 06:53 PM

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