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#1StudentNWI: Students’ dedication pays off with the first Boone Grove choir concert of the year

Maggie Andrews
By: Maggie Andrews Last Updated: October 31, 2020

COVID-19 has undoubtedly put a strain on everyone in many ways, including social activities. Following social distancing guidelines makes it difficult for students to gather for projects or extracurricular activities. Each class has implemented the new safety precautions in order to maximize safety.

Masks are to be worn at all times, and Boone Grove High School choir students are no different. Singing while wearing masks is no easy task. Thankfully, the choir students know how to make the best out of a tough situation. Although the circumstances are not ideal, the choir put on an amazing concert on October 19.

Instead of doing a full concert, they performed songs from half of a musical. Senior Amy Swenson has been in choir for all four years of high school, and has worked side by side with music director Athena Welbourne-Swetalla to recreate the world of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods.

In collaboration with the Boone Grove Middle School choir, the two schools performed the Twisted Tales concert.

student singing

“It’s a summarization of ‘Into the Woods,’ a musical containing the plots of several fairy tales. It explores the stories of our favorite characters and the consequences of the characters’ wishes that may affect their ‘happily ever after,” said senior Emma Grant.

Students dressed as characters such as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and evil witch, and many others. One story told throughout the concert was about a baker and his wife who would do anything to have a child. The concert follows the story of this couple and their encounters with the evil witch.

Songs such as “Giants in the Sky,” and “It Takes Two” made an appearance in the concert.

Putting on a concert amid a pandemic was not easy, but Welbourne-Swetalla felt that the concert went really well, all things considered.

“I do pre-planning years in advance of themes and ideas I think the kids would enjoy. With the world being so wonky right now, the ‘Twisted Tales’ theme seemed like a perfect fit,” she said.

In order to hold the concert, the school had to meet many requirements to make sure that the health and safety standards were met for students, staff, and visitors.

“I had to submit a proposal to the Porter County Health Department with details of the concert including dates, times, student logistics, students involved, stage spots diagram, ticket information, audience logistics, audience seating diagram, seat sanitizing specifics, and social distancing guidelines,” said Welbourne-Swetalla. 

The choir’s 61 live performers made sure to follow all requirements so they could hold the concert. Masks are enforced and required in the school, and while they make singing more difficult, students were good sports about it.

Regarding the new safety guidelines for the school, Swenson said that the masks definitely changed the way they had to sing.

“We had to relearn how to breathe deeply and project further because the sound gets trapped in the mask,” she said.

students singing

“Singing in masks took some time to get used to for all of us. It is definitely tough to inhale, project and enunciate, making it harder for others to hear us. Singing in masks is an annoying necessity for us all. However, my students have done an outstanding job rising above this challenge,” said Welbourne-Swetalla.

The Boone Grove choir students put together an amazing concert even with all of the challenges and difficulties.

“We recognized that our stage presence needed to be altered a bit in the way we went about performing, as facial expressions can't be seen very well through the masks,” said Welbourne-Swetalla.

Compensate they did, as they put on an incredible show. Though the audience was unable to see most of their faces, they put their emotions out there for the audience to see and feel with their songs and voices. The students also put a lot of effort into their costumes and took on the role of their characters.

In addition to masks, the choir was socially distanced on the stage, and audience members were socially distanced in their seats. Paper markers were placed on the risers to be sure that no student drifted from their spots.

Chairs were sanitized and audience members were asked to keep their masks on for the entirety of the concert to maximize safety while attending.

“Figuring out the logistics, scheduling dates and times, sound, microphones, staging, seating, sanitizing, social distancing lines, pre-ticket sales, costumes, backdrops and lighting took countless hours to plan and even more to execute,” said Welbourne-Swetalla.

“I’ve gotten a substantial amount of positive feedback and support from our staff, administration, parents and students,” she continued.

Members of the school are super proud of the choir for all of their dedication and hard work.

The Boone Grove High School choir looks forward to putting on another concert in December in place of the iconic “Madrigal.”

“Although it seemed like there were endless hurdles to overcome for this concert, we all rose to the challenge and put on a fantastic show! I am very thankful for the students who stayed after school for weeks to help conquer the sound, lighting and set design. I am bursting with joy for my student’s success and look forward to our modified winter madrigal performance,” said Welbourne-Swetalla.

Be sure to check out their YouTube channel for the choir to check out their Twisted Tales concert!