COVID-19 induces revisions for audial subjects

Visual+representations+of+the+new+systems+in+place%3A+%28top+to+bottom%29+band+members+playing+through+mask+holes%3B+choir+singers+singing+six+feet+apart%3B+a+Staples+Players+radio+show.

Graphic by Kristina Chaney ’23

Visual representations of the new systems in place: (top to bottom) band members playing through mask holes; choir singers singing six feet apart; a Staples Players radio show.

Kristina Chaney ’23, Staff Writer

Half of the students in every class operate on a several-second delay. Noses and mouths inside a building are a rare sight. Hallway traffic moves exclusively in one direction.  The hybrid/distance learning system has more or less successfully adapted Staples into a COVID-19-safe school environment, but some parts of Staples have required more innovative solutions. 

Choir and band classes, which many students rely on to fulfill their arts credits, were more difficult to reform for COVID-19, as was the popular extracurricular, Staples Players. 

The price of the COVID-19 precautions has an unfortunate effect on the quality of sound produced by the choir. According to choir director Luke Rosenberg, the classes have to wear masks and stand six to nine feet apart while singing, while whichever cohort is distanced can’t participate due to latency issues with Zoom.

Distance learning in choir consists of using two programs: Music First and Practice First, to practice repertoire and accuracy, while in-person students experience more conventional choir classes. Performances for choir are still being worked out, but it’s likely that there will be a more COVID-19-conscious alternative to the Candlelight Concert, the longtime Staples High School tradition.

If the 2020 Candlelight Concert becomes a reality, the Staples band courses will most likely perform similarly to choir. In both choir and band, the two cohorts are unable to practice music together due to Staples’s safety policies, meaning that if the classes perform, the performing groups will be further divided by cohort. 

When in class, band students with reed or brass instruments wear masks with holes in them so they can play through the mask and cover the sound holes of their instruments so students’ breath can’t come out. All band students have been placed 12 feet apart from one another for added precaution. 

The precautions may seem bizarre, but the Staples band department has accepted them and is settling into the new routines and practices.

The precautions may seem bizarre, but the Staples band department has accepted them and is settling into the new routines and practices.”

— Kristina Chaney ’23

“I think it’s fine, but at the end of the day it’s definitely different,” Mallika Subramanian ’23, said. “It’s going to be a new experience and that’s just something we’ll have to live with.”

A virtual Candlelight Concert would be similar to COVID-19-safe performances being put on by the Staples Players. It would also be experienced from afar, with little to no visuals. 

Staples Players took a different route to COVID-19 safety by completely changing what their productions look like by introducing so-called “radio shows.” Instead of people acting normally onstage, without masks and constantly touching all the same objects and one another as they have in the past, Staples Players changed their methods so the shows would consist of almost only audio. 

Since radio shows require much less physical interaction between actors, they became the medium for the performances of all announced Staples Players productions: “The Wizard of Oz,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Future shows beyond those three have yet to be officially announced, according to the Staples Players Facebook Group.

Players actors are rehearsing mainly on a plethora of Zoom calls, and in-person practice has been limited. All Zoom rehearsals are posted on the Players Facebook Group, and though the delays in the Zoom program may pose a problem, the acting rehearsals are continuing to use the program.

As for the tech crew aspect of Players, many crew members have been left without much to do, since there aren’t many sets to build or paint. However, there are spaces to fill in the sound, light and advertising crews. Similarly, the casts for the coming shows will be smaller to increase COVID-19 safety. The Players, both cast and crew, are readily taking on the new methods of performance and the new setup is considered much more hygienic than past shows have been.

“They’re almost like podcasts,” Frankie Lockenour ’23, a sound crew veteran, said. “I think it will be a lot safer than “Mamma Mia” because people will be farther apart, especially for people in sound. We [used to have to] touch people a lot to take off their mics.”

The choir, band and Staples Players programs have changed dramatically in the name of safety from COVID-19, and Staples High School is a lot healthier because of it.