For longtime Chomedey resident Marlene Schwartz, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a dramatic change to her traditional early summer role as a member of the iconic Lyric Theatre Singers.
Marlene has been a performer with Lyric since 1990. Every June the large group of mega-talented singers and dancers put on a weekend of sold out shows, normally at the downtown Concordia University campus. While all of that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, the talented team put together a four video series created no only to lift Montrealers’ spirits during this “live arts” void, but also to draw attention to The Depot, which they regularly collect money and food for at all of their concerts. It is experiencing a larger burden during this crisis, with families losing income due to the pandemic.
Done via the Zoom video platform, each one is marvelous to watch. They contain renditions of songs from Fiddler on the Roof (Sunrise Sunset in French) with the Shabbat prayer; Godspell (Beautiful City) , Aladdin (Friend Like Me) and coming in September a surprise from Into the Woods.
“It was terribly disappointing when the reality of not being able to do a June show hit home,” said Marlene. “I was intrigued by the prospect of having virtual rehearsals. That was a totally different experience), but at the same time relieved that Bob Bachelor had found a way to keep our Lyric family together in these challenging times.”
Marlene laughs that she is a technically-challenged person. “The first video that we worked on, Beautiful City, was quite exasperating for me,” she said. “Our ‘normal’ is to perform and have others take care of lighting, angles and more. Now we had to do all of it on our own, albeit with very explicit instructions on ‘how to.’ Each of the videos was very different from the others, each with their own challenges and sets of rules on how to accomplish them. All were worked on with the same intensity and enthusiasm, as our group is extremely cohesive, and works very well together and, now it seems, even apart.
“I must say that Lyric and videographer Alessandro Mercurio did a brilliant job, from the costumes and special effects as well as the great music. “ I loved the final product!’” added Marlene. “It was magical! When we viewed it for the first time, many of us had tears in our eyes and huge smiles on our faces! We were an ensemble once again, even in the face of a pandemic and we were still able to make music! It was a wonderful feeling!”
Laurie-Anne Jean-Baptiste, currently in her 14th year with the Singers and the vice-president of promotions, is pleased with how well the group has stayed connected as much as possible, despite these difficult times. “Some of the members were and are still juggling staying at home with their families, looking for new work, working from home and going into work safely,” she explained. “Yes, a few of our members are frontline workers; some are teachers). It’s been a positive experience. This is no live theatre, but we are all very proud of what has come out of the process.”
You can to their YouTube channel to see these videos and more.