LOS ANGELES — Sitting alone in her parked car, Carmen Sicherman tuned in to her favorite radio station, 90.3, and her face instantly lit up.
"To be able to come to the drive in and sing together, it’s a miracle," she said.
What You Need To Know
- Angel City Chorale was founded in 1993 by artistic director Sue Fink
- The group purchased equipment that allows them to hold in-person, drive-in style rehearsals
- Each singer has a microphone in their car, and the voices are pumped back through the car radio
- The group's next concert "Play It Forward" will stream on June 5 at 6 p.m.
Sicherman has been singing with the Angel City Chorale since the 90s and explained that when the pandemic put the brakes on group singing, she started to become a little depressed.
"The method of singing within a group is therapy, when you hear your voice against someone else’s voice," she said.
And that’s something Zoom just can’t replicate.
“If I sing and you sing from your computer, we are not going to be singing at the same time,” said artistic director Sue Fink. “We can’t even sing 'Happy Birthday' and keep it together.”
Fink founded the group 27 years ago, “when I was young… and foolish… and I wanted to create a little community.”
That little community is now 170 singers strong. Fink explained how she kept things going through Zoom as best she could, putting together some very successful, highly produced digital concerts.
“It was a ton of work,” she said. “I have many other words besides 'ton,' but it was a lot of work.”
Singing alone and being edited together doesn’t scratch the same itch, however. So when one choir member heard about a choir in Michigan that was doing drive-in rehearsals, it got his wheels turning. Each singer gets a microphone, which sends a signal to a tower of receivers.
"Electronics on the table combine all the voices and send them out as one signal to your car, and your choir comes out of your car radio," said member Tom Reinsel.
Everything suddenly shifted in gear again, as Fink explained.
“I can stand and conduct, and they can hear me and I can hear them,” she said. “But more importantly is they get to hear each other.”
"Oh my goodness, it was electric," Sicherman said. "It was fantastic. It was like an awakening of the whole choir."
The group is now preparing for its June 5 concert, which will not only feature singing but choreography as well. It’s called “Play it Forward,” and the focus is on what comes next. The community-based group has always been community-focused.
"We don’t have to do huge things," Fink said. "But as a community, we can do little things, and the little things make ripples."
This year, they have collected and donated items to the homeless, and have partnered with both The Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley to create a mural and plant trees at their new headquarters. Environment, homelessness and community are all themes addressed in their current season.
“What are our dreams for the world as it opens up, but also what is our personal and group responsibility in being part of making the world a better place as we open up," said Fink.
Sicherman noted that her world is already a better place now that she can once again see and hear the group that’s been filling her ears and heart for decades.
“It’s magical," she said. “It supports that cerebral cortex feeling, that joy of music. It’s health and... magic.”
Sicherman looks forward to experiencing that magic shoulder-to-shoulder again when the pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story a quote from Tom Reinsel was incorrectly attributed to someone else. This has been fixed. (April 19, 2021)