Contrary to popular door-to-door traditions during Christmas, carolling in the city has shifted to virtual platforms owing to social distancing norms in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although believers are experiencing a sense of nostalgia for the usual customs, carollers are now visiting people’s homes via video conferences.
Abhishek Kamble, guitarist for Christian music band ‘Seber’, said that its members held their annual carolling event, ‘Let Heaven and Nature Sing’, online this year. “We are a worship team of six members at the Hope Manna Church. This year, we have tried to keep the tradition of carol singing intact and reached out to people through video calls. We could also make use of technology in a better way. For instance, we included the recordings of instruments – such as the drums – that we don’t carry with us all the time. Since our band members had also travelled back to their hometowns or were at some other location due to the lockdown, the online method has helped us perform together regardless,” he said.
Kamble said that although the band misses singing carols at doorsteps and partaking in the Christmas goodies offered to them by their appreciators, the online method has allowed them to share the merriment with a larger community. “The enthusiasm among people remains the same. We have been able to perform for many families from our church, even the ones who have travelled to other cities for the holiday season, as well as local organisations. For Christmas, we have pre-recorded carols which will be uploaded on our official Facebook account,” he said.
Ronald Santiago, president of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), Pune Diocese, said that they have organised a carol singing competition. “Carol singing is integral to Christmas celebrations, but with Covid-19 in the picture, it is next to impossible to visit people at their houses… They will also be skeptical to open their doors to carollers. Hence, we will have a carol singing competition which will see at least 30 churches and small choir groups participating,” he said.
Members of the ICYM have asked participants to send videos of themselves singing carols while maintaining social distance. “Unlike previous years, where only church choir groups could perform, this competition gives an open forum for anyone to perform carols in the safety of their homes. The winners will be decided based on votes by our judges as well as our online audience,” he said.
Rosalina Arockiaraj Selvaraj of St. Ignatius Church, Khadki, said that their choir has been performing online for churchgoers every weekend. “We have had many people asking to join choir groups as compared to previous years. As most people have been working from home, it helps as one choir member can take the shift of another. Thereafter, they can perform online together.”
Joanna Weilson from the Good Shepherd Church, NIBM road, who has been carolling for three years, said that her choir group will be taking part in the competition. “We have been practicing in the premises with social distancing in mind,” she said.
She added that the choir group has taken it upon themselves to specifically reach out to the members of their church. “Several older members will be unable to visit anyway, so we are sending personal carol singing videos to involve them in the festivities,” she said.
Ashwin Paul Adhav, member of the Holy Cross Catholic Church, Dapodi, said, “As churches have now opened, people can experience carol singing in person. However, we have reduced the number of members of our carol team so that only a limited number of people are present at a given time. We have a total strength of 45 people, who have further been divided into a group of 15, so that everyone gets a chance to perform. It will also be performed at the open premises of the church.”
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