Winnipeg choir produces emotional recording of Dolly Parton song — together, while apart


Like many other artists in Manitoba, Winnipeg's Polycoro hasn't been able to perform together in almost two years because of COVID-19 — but that didn't stop them from creating a powerful video to inspire hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

Singing is considered a "risky" activity in terms of spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and pandemic restrictions have limited group gatherings since March of 2020.

In spite of all that, Polycoro was able to come together — while apart — to produce a video of the choir performing Dolly Parton's Light of a Clear Blue Morning.

"We would love to be able to sing together and record again in the same room," Polycoro's creative director, Zohreh Gervais, said in an interview with CBC's Information Radio.

"But because of the way things have been, with singing being a risky activity, we have just done it one person at a time in a studio. We didn't see each other at all during that entire shoot."

Gervais says she thought of the Dolly Parton song often throughout the pandemic.

"'It's been a long, dark night' — that's the first line of the song," she says, with the last word held "to the point where you're almost running out of breath.

"And it's just like, 'Oh my God — when is this gonna end?' And that's exactly what COVID has felt like for so many people, I think." 

'Something people could relate to'

Polycoro, which usually performs concerts with visual elements like the music video, formed in 2015. (The choir also has a CBC connection — Nolan Kehler, a technical producer with CBC Radio in Manitoba, is a tenor in the group.)

Gervais says the importance of recognizing society's pandemic experience in their art is necessary.

"I wanted to make this video because there are so many different ways that people have coped with the experience of COVID. I wanted something people could relate to. There are so many elements that have changed in all of our lives."