WESTERLY — These, truly, are the sounds of silence.

There were no angelic voices or instrumental sounds bouncing off the ornate stained-glass windows or plastered walls or soaring ceilings at the Kent Performance Hall on Wednesday.

Like most arts organizations around the state, country and world, the Chorus of Westerly is making drastic changes to its schedule in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Brahms Requiem performances, which had been scheduled to take place in early April, have been canceled, and a decision about whether to postpone Spring Pops and the ever-popular Summer Pops will be made at a later date.

"Everything is obviously changed," said Chorus Executive Director Ryan Saunders Monday afternoon from his home in Massachusetts, where he plans to work remotely for the time being. "We decided early on that the best thing to do was to shut down."

Although the renovation project will continue on the outside, he said, everything on the inside is closed. All rehearsals have been canceled and the chorus offices are closed. 

All Monday evening rehearsals for adult singers have been canceled through the end of the month at least and all foundation chorus rehearsals have been canceled through at least April 1, as have children’s rehearsals and the weekday after-school program.

"This has been very, very difficult," said Saunders. "We have never canceled a concert in our sixty-one-year history ... never."

Certainly there were times when a Summer Pops concert was postponed due to rain, and perhaps a Celebration of Twelfth Night show postponed for snow, he said, but never has a concert been nixed.

"But at the end of the day," he said, "our audiences ... our members, our supporters ... their health is paramount. Our decision was based on the good of the community as a whole."

"Who knows, maybe Summer Pops becomes Fall Pops," Saunders said. "We just don't know."

Saunders said he realizes how beneficial the Summer Pops concerts are to the Westerly area business community, and predicts that "when the time is right," the concerts will again take place.

"There is no one more important to us than all of you," Saunders wrote in an email to the chorus community last week. "You are our singers, parents, audience members, donors, volunteers, and, above all, our friends. Your life and your soul and our greater community mean more to us than you can possibly imagine. It is why we do what we do through the power of music."

"As hard as this is," Saunders said Monday, "it's the new normal ... but there will be another day."

"We'll figure out a way through this," Saunders said, noting that plans currently call for holding the Brahms concerts next fall or in the spring of 2021.

"We can't have a concert without rehearsals," Saunders added, "and we haven't figured out how to have remote rehearsals."

"When the time is right, we'll get active again and we'll do our part," Saunders said. "It's going to be quiet for a while, but we can offer a glimmer of hope and joy."

Saunders said patrons who have purchased tickets to the Brahms concerts can call Patron Services Manager Genvieve Spitale at 401-596-8663 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

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