Philadelphia choir survives with unique outdoor performances amidst pandemic

NEW HOPE, Pa. -- Windswept leaves decorate the stage of the latest production by Philadelphia's Grammy-winning choir, "The Crossing." However, there is no stage at all.

In their next choir performance, they will plant socially-distant singers in the forest while guests stroll through an autumnal wonderland.

The group has not met for a traditional performance since the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted the entertainment industry.

"Every singer lost all of their work completely," said Donald Nally, the choir's co-founder and conductor.

It took a toll on their 24 chorale performers.

"Not having that emotional outlet to just sing about how I feel has been really, really hard," said Katy Avery, a soprano.

The soft sounds of her voice serenaded the towering trees within Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve today as she practiced for an incredibly unique socially-distant performance.

This weekend, The Crossing will debut their latest composition, "The Forest," in the most literal setting they could imagine: Penn's Woods in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

"We were kind of paralyzed, right, you know, trying to figure out what to do," said Nally. "But then, we started to talk about, well, what can we actually do?"

Nally employed Sound Designer Paul Vazquez to craft the solution. Along the trail, singers will be shrouded 30-feet into the thicket, nearly blending in with the trees and wildlife. Stationed on the walkway are several six-foot tall speakers shaped like wood-burning stoves.

As guests stroll by, they will feel more intimate with each voice than ever before.

"The Forest" will explore the emotions of a singer stuck in quarantine, reflecting back on a half-year's worth of performances stolen by a global pandemic. In addition, it seeks to marry humans with nature in a manner that encourages coexistence.

It is just one of the many pieces constructed by The Crossing that seeks to make commentary on the current socio-political climate.

"I hope, whatever they take away from this piece, they'll maybe take some time to think about what is this human experience of living through these times?" said Jonathan Bradley, Executive Director of the Crossing. "What can we do for the future?"

This weekend's performances sold out in just one day. However, anyone interested in watching the full performance can experience it through a video production in the future.

To learn more about upcoming projects, visit their website.

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