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Research Shorts: Resurrecting Song with Dr Wendy K. Moy

25th March 2024

book cover for Resurrecting Song, choir directors are wearing covid masks and holding a black folder. There was a time, not very long ago, when singing was at the forefront of debates about safety in classrooms and choirs were seen as the dangerous epicentre of ‘super-spreader’ events. Though it might seem rather hazy to look back on now, Music Mark was at the forefront of conversations about risk management and worked to produce extensive independent guidance, alongside organisations like Sing Up, to help schools back to singing.

So when I first saw details of Wendy K. Moy’s new book Resurrecting Song: A Pathway Forward for the Choral Art in the Time of Pandemics, I wanted to find out more about her work in capturing this period and the impact it had. I asked Wendy what the key focus of her book is, she told me it ‘documents the choral music community’s journey through crisis and change during the COVID-19 pandemic and aids in its rebuilding in a new era where COVID-19 is endemic’. The book draws on US and Canada as examples, yet its findings have relevance for the whole choral community:

‘Singers, teachers, conductors, music professors, board members, and music supporters will find this research valuable since it documents both pandemic experiences and the lessons learned from surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research helps point the way to new directions in programming and practices for the choral community in the wake of the pandemic.’

The book is based on interviews with ‘over 40 American and Canadian choral conductors, teachers, professional singers, and choral organisations. These open-ended interviews covered the ecosystem of the choral world: community choirs, children and youth choirs, collegiate choirs, professional choirs, and choral organisations.’

The book starts with a recollection of a phone call on 11 March, 2020, from Wendy’s sister, Lisa Moy, who as a public health epidemiologist was deeply concerned about her sister’s potential exposure through running choirs. In thinking back to this moment when so much was unknown, Moy positions this work as a powerful history of what choirs did during and after the deadly pandemic. What Wendy found out in the interviews, she explains, was not quite what she expected: ‘I had the privilege of listening to the pandemic journeys of many incredible leaders in the choral field. I anticipated stories of grief and resiliency, but I did not expect to learn of the countless silver linings.’

Wendy considers two key questions: ‘how did the choral community respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic?’ and ‘What did the choral community do or learn from its time during the COVID-19 pandemic that it would like to retain post-pandemic?’ (She notes clearly at the beginning that the post-pandemic term is not exact, and clearly positions that ‘COVID-19 is still deadly and debilitating, especially for high-risk and unvaccinated populations.’)

The book covers teachers who learned how to lead singing online, how choirs maintained a sense of community and hope, and how music organisations worked to ‘resurrect song’. Wendy’s book is profoundly hopeful, and speaks to music educators and facilitators tenacity in findings ways for music to still change lives, in the most frightening and difficult of circumstances.

Wendy can be found on Instagram and Threads @maestramoy, and you can read more about her professional work here. Further resources on the book can be found here.

The book is out on 2 April, and can be pre-ordered here.

Interview by Dr Sarah K. Whitfield – Research Lead for Music Mark

Music Mark logo, text that says 'Research Shorts' and spring flowers along the bottom of the image.