EVEN though the veterans choir “Boots N’ All” aren’t able to perform its usual Christmas carols at nursing homes, due to covid, they’ve found another way to sing to residents.
The Christmas period is usually a time when the group joins together to visit nursing homes and RSL homes, singing carols and other special songs for residents, says the choir’s director Sophie Russell-Farnham, 33.
But with the ongoing covid pandemic, the choir, which was founded in 2015 for veterans and their supporters combating loneliness and isolation post-service, was forced to abandon their usual routine, she says.
So, with their usual Christmas revelry abandoned, Sophie, who took over as director this year, got the 22-person choir together to brainstorm.
“We put our thinking caps on and decided we could do something very ‘twenty-twenty-ish’,” she says, hoping to find a way they could deliver some joy to nursing home residents and reconnect them with the outside world despite the continuing “covid climate”.
The group first tried their hand at the popular app, Zoom. But after technical challenges, they instead settled on making a video which nursing homes can display on Christmas Day, as many times as they want.
The choir dressed in their Christmas best – Santa hats, most of all – and recorded roughly eight songs on an iPhone. The setlist include classic Christmas carols, more harmonic songs such as “Amazing Grace” and songs that might have meaning to residents, says Sophie.
They also included short, personal messages, “not just the singing”, says Sophie, to let residents know they’re thinking about them.
Sophie says it all came together in one night, with the video due to be out before Christmas. It was also a special night for the choir, she says.
“It was probably one of the best night’s we’ve had all year because we knew what we were working towards made it special for everyone,” she says.
Performing each Christmas is a special opportunity for the choir’s diverse cast, so many members felt they were missing out this year because of covid, says choir member David Pang, 55.
David is an ex-military photographer and first joined the choir almost by accident. He’s the instructor of a yoga class that operates out of the same hall as the choir but, as Sophie puts it, he “stayed too long one night” and ended up joining in!
Now, he lights up talking about the “really special” experience of visiting nursing homes, singing Christmas carols and other songs.
“Just to see some of the residents light up and actually start engaging and singing is such a special moment,” he says.