RNCM alum launches virtual choir following Coronavirus outbreak

With self-isolation and social distancing measures in full force, we caught up with Dan McDwyer, RNCM alum and Director of Northern Voices about how his new virtual choir is helping keep people connected – and how you can join in at home!

So you started a virtual choir?

Yes! I run seven choirs around Manchester but during this time while we’re self-isolating and social distancing obviously I can’t keep normal rehearsals going. So we are using Zoom, a live video platform to still keep everyone connected. It means I can livestream myself teaching all the vocal harmonies and parts and everyone can sing in the comfort of their own home. The sessions are open to everyone.

Have you done something like this before?

I have never used any platforms like Zoom or Skype before so it has completely changed my mindset on the use of online technology. We are obviously in a situation where we need to think outside the box and I really wanted to find a way of making sure I can still get people singing at home. I started plans a couple of weeks ago thinking ahead to the unfortunate chance I would have to stop rehearsals, so thankfully everything was in place ready to go the day the government advised against social gatherings. I am a strong believer in singing for well-being and mental health so at a time like this it’s is as important as ever to continue singing!

How has the experience been so far?

Going from seeing hundreds of people each week to doing things online is definitely an adjustment, but I have really loved how technology is able to still keep us connected. I’ve had members standing around the laptop singing with their elderly parents and another member joining in with her two young children. I even had one of my choir members tune in live as she was stuck in Spain! In a really lovely way, it has actually brought the community even closer.

In a really lovely way, it has actually brought the community even closer.

I have also started a YouTube channel where I am releasing free daily singing and music videos for young children and parents who are at home. These videos aim to get young children singing while also incorporating some of the key stage 1 and 2 curriculum.

What kind of feedback are you getting from participants?

Everyone seems to be loving it! For many of the people I work with, choir practise is escapism from the stressors of life and work so they will do anything to be able to continue singing. People really want to come through this difficult time together and it shows a great sense of community that people still want to carry on singing and support each other.

Do you plan on continuing the choir after self-isolation measures have been lifted?

I’ll be honest, I cannot wait for the day where we get to return and we can have music back in the room but there is no reason why I won’t offer the opportunity of joining in at home via Zoom as well as physically coming to the rehearsal to sing in the future.

How do people join in the virtual choir?

You can keep updated about the sessions by following me on social media, @danielmcdwyer and @choir_project.


Dan McDwyer taking us through his vocal warm-up on BBC Radio Manchester

1 April 2020