Creating “Hello Chorus”
Beth Wilmurt, who conducts three of the Community Music Center (CMC) Older Adult Choirs, started making instructional videos for her choirs in early March when senior centers throughout San Francisco were shut down. Through this transition to a virtual choir, a series of email exchanges between choir members and Wilmurt were collected like small poems in her inbox. Wilmurt, who is also an actor and songwriter, transformed these email exchanges into mini-songs as part of For You’s ongoing Artists & Elders Project. “Hello Chorus,” which is supported by CMC’s Creative Stimulus and Artist Support Grant for Faculty, is the result. Each weekday in October, people who sign up will get one of Wilmurt’s songs delivered to their inbox.
“Little email exchanges started to seem sweetly profound even in their pedestrian nature,” said Wilmurt. “And the result was that I got really inspired by each of my students and their stories.”
Connecting in a time of COVID
Wilmurt taught herself multi-track recording, iMovie, and YouTube to bring these stories to fruition, singing and playing all the parts in the recordings. Though the recordings are DIY in nature and crafted from seemingly simple exchanges, “Hello Chorus” speaks to a larger historic moment when people are forced to transform the ways they connect.
As Erika Chong Shuch, performance maker at For You, put it, “The collection of Beth’s songs are mini odes offered to the current moment. Through the multiple Artists & Elders projects, we are creating a portrait of our collective mutual aid. These projects are a record of some of the ways we’ve stepped up for each other.”
Just as the weekly videos were a lifeline for the seniors to stay connected to the social and creative benefits of the choirs, the email exchanges with her choir members became a buoy for Wilmurt’s artistic process.
“I was moved by my students’ struggles and desires to go on-line, and dealing with my own tech struggles,” says Wilmurt. “I used this songwriting prompt to keep me invested in the learning of the technology, just as my students’ social needs motivated them to step out of their comfort zone.”
Creative Stimulus Grant supports creativity during the Pandemic
Wilmurt project is one of 56 CMC faculty projects supported by the Creative Stimulus and Artist Support Grant for Faculty to stimulate and support creative work during the pandemic. Other projects include work by jazz artist Marcus Shelby, pianist/composer Allison Lovejoy, tenors Jonathan Smucker and Michael Mohammed, and saxophonist Charlie Gurke.
Listen to “Hello Chorus” first 10 songs