Luther College choirs utilize empty city pool for rehearsals during COVID-19 pandemic

DECORAH, Iowa – In the days prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it was in churches, small groups or schools, people found joy in singing together. Today, gathering in close contact, singing with mouths open wide and little indoor ventilation is a concern. That’s why many choirs, including those at Luther College, are taking their voices outdoors whenever possible.

Luther College’s Norskkor choir practices in empty city pool under the direction of Mark Potvin.

“I was driving past the city pool trying to contemplate where we were going to rehearse outdoors. I noticed they were draining the pool so I called our friends at Decorah Park and Rec and said ‘Hey any chance that once that pool is empty we can start using it for choir rehearsals?’ and without a second thought they said absolutely, no problem,” said Mark Potvin, instructor of music and conductor at Luther College.

Now, several days a week the voices of Luther singers can be heard reverberating off the walls of the empty Decorah Municipal Pool.

“It’s great. I mean there are challenges to singing outdoors, no doubt about it, but these singers really rose to that challenge and I think they are willing to roll with the punches and accept that this may not be normal but it’s still gloriously fun to be together, singing in community,” said Potvin.  

The Decorah Municipal Pool is located immediately next to the Luther College campus, making this venue convenient and easily accessible for students. It’s an example of innovative thinking during this pandemic which is affecting so many industries and organizations. To view a video of the Norskkor choir in action visit the Luther College Music Department Facebook page.

Luther College is taking serious precautions when it comes to choral ensemble rehearsals during the fall 2020 semester. For the five choirs (Nordic Choir, Collegiate Chorale, Cathedral Choir, Aurora and Norskkor) precautions include utilizing outdoor venues whenever possible, conductors and singers wearing face coverings at all times, the conductor wearing a personal amplification device to decrease the need to speak loudly and singers being spaced 7.5-12 feet in all directions which may result in some larger ensembles being split into smaller groups or sectionals for rehearsals.

Luther College is home to one of the largest collegiate music programs in the nation, with five choirs, three orchestras, three bands, two jazz bands and more than 800 student musicians. Luther students participate in large ensembles, faculty-coached chamber groups, private lessons and master classes. Nearly 275 music majors study music theory, ear training, history, education, composition, jazz, church music and performance.

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