WOOD RIVER JCT. – A singing group from Chariho High School performed for nursing home residents and healthcare workers on Thursday afternoon, marking the first time the group has sung in public since the pandemic began.
Chariho Vocal Select, an auditioned mixed choir of 15 students from Chariho High School, sang in celebration of National Nursing Home Week at Apple Rehab in Watch Hill and National Nurses and Hospital Week at Westerly Hospital. (Both performances were held outdoors and COVID-19 precautions were followed.)
Every day for the past week, Apple Rehab Watch Hill celebrated different holidays that were missed due to the pandemic. To celebrate the Christmas-themed day on Thursday, nursing home staff invited Chariho Vocal Select to sing Christmas carols for the residents.
After serenading the residents of the nursing home with holiday songs, the singing group then went to Westerly Hospital and sang a few songs in front of an audience of healthcare workers.
Lynn Dowding, Chariho’s choir director, said the two 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 they had the opportunity to do so 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 wanted to do for so long.
She said her group was honored to sing for people who have sacrificed so much because of the pandemic.
Beverly Schryver, Director of Therapeutic Recreation at Apple Rehab Watch Hill, said the event was also special for her and the residents of the nursing home.
“It was a blessing,” Schryver said. “It was an absolute honor and blessing that they came to share their music with the residents of our suites who missed so much last year.”
This event was also memorable for the singing students.
“Today’s event is really special to me,” said Brynn McCarthy, a senior who sang with the singing group for four years. “This is the first time in over a year that I have had the opportunity to sing for others with my friends, and I will always smile remembering this moment.”
Alex Celico, a junior, said this event was a long time coming. He mentioned that the event gave a sense of normalcy.
“I like to make people happy, and the choir is a great way to do that,” Celico said. “Seeing the look on the [nursing home] the faces of the residents felt so good.
Until Thursday, the singing group had to give up all live musical performances because of the pandemic. Despite pandemic restrictions, the band and the entire Chariho Chorus produced pre-recorded virtual video concerts.
In Chariho High School’s choir class, all students must wear masks at all times and keep six feet apart. Before this February, students weren’t allowed to sing indoors with their masks on; they were only allowed to hum. That changed in February when new guidelines suggested it was safe for students to sing indoors with masks on.
Dowding said she was proud of her students’ perseverance.
“The pandemic has forced us to do things in new and unique ways,” Dowding said. “It was difficult and frustrating, but we also learned a ton of things doing it.”
She hopes more live musical performances will return as more pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“Although we’ve learned to do things in new and different ways, there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from singing live,” Dowding said.