WOOD RIVER JCT. — A singing group from Chariho High School performed for nursing home residents and healthcare workers Thursday afternoon, marking the first time the group has sung publicly since the start of the pandemic.
Chariho Vocal Select, an auditioned mixed-choir of 15 Chariho High School students, sang to celebrate National Nursing Homes Week at Apple Rehab in Watch Hill and National Nurses and Hospitals Week at Westerly Hospital. (Both performances were held outside and COVID-19 precautions were followed.)
Every day last week, Apple Rehab Watch Hill celebrated different holidays that were missed as a result of the pandemic. In celebration of the Christmas-themed day on Thursday, the nursing home staff invited Chariho Vocal Select to sing Christmas carols for the residents.
After serenading the nursing home residents with holiday songs, the singing group then traveled to Westerly Hospital and sang a few songs for an audience of healthcare workers.
Lynn Dowding, the Chariho chorus director, said that both singing events were very meaningful to her and the singing group.
“It's always special for the students to sing [for an audience], and I'm grateful that they had the opportunity to do that again,” Dowding said, noting that the students haven’t performed publicly since December 2019. “It was a great opportunity for the students to be able to do what we've been longing to do for such a long time.”
She said her group was honored to sing for people who have sacrificed so much because of the pandemic.
Beverly Schryver, the therapeutic recreation director at Apple Rehab Watch Hill, said that this event was also special for her and the nursing home residents.
“It was a blessing,” Schryver said. "It was an absolute honor and blessing that they came to share their music with our suite residents who missed out so much this past year.”
This event was memorable for the student singers as well.
“Today’s event is truly special to me,” said Brynn McCarthy, a senior who has sung with the singing group for four years. “This is the first time in over a year that I had the opportunity to sing for others with my friends, and I will always smile when I remember this moment.”
Alex Celico, a junior, said that this event has been a long time coming. He mentioned that the event provided a sense of normalcy.
“I love to make people happy, and chorus is a great way to do that,” Celico said. “Seeing the look on the [nursing home] resident’s faces felt so good.”
Until Thursday, the singing group has had to forego all live musical performances because of the pandemic. Despite pandemic restrictions, the group and the entire Chariho Chorus have produced virtual pre-recorded video concerts.
In the chorus class at Chariho High School, all students must wear masks at all times and stand six feet apart. Prior to this February, students were not allowed to sing indoors with their masks on; they were only allowed to hum. That changed in February when new guidelines suggested that it was safe for students to sing inside with masks on.
Dowding said that she is proud of her students’ perseverance.
“The pandemic forced us to do things in new and unique ways,” Dowding said. “It’s been hard and frustrating, but we've also learned a ton of things through doing it.”
She is hopeful that more live musical performances will return as more pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“Although we have learned to do things in new and different ways, there is nothing like the feeling you get from live singing,” Dowding said.