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Bruce Cockburn joins Victoria's Gettin' Higher Choir for Mozambique relief concert

ON STAGE What: Voices Rising: a Fundraiser for Mozambique Where: Zoom or YouTube When: June 19, 7 p.m.

ON STAGE

What: Voices Rising: a Fundraiser for Mozambique
Where: Zoom or YouTube
When: June 19, 7 p.m.
Tickets: Free (donations accepted)

The news Tuesday that signalled the return of live events with in-person audiences of up to 50 socially distanced people is good news for everyone — the Gettin’ Higher Choir included. But it won’t help choir directors Cathy Baker and Dick Jackson bring Voices Rising: a Fundraiser for Mozambique to audiences on Saturday.

That’s because filming for the concert has already taken place, which made it possible for Baker and Jackson to gather nearly 80 particpants into a virtual cast of singers and musicians for the 23rd annual event. In this rare instance, limitations put in place to combat the pandemic actually helped the Gettin’ Higher Choir create, through video-conferencing platform Flock, a massive project several months in the making.

“Our particpation, locally, has shrunk, because there are some people who aren’t into singing to the computer,” Baker said of the congregaton, which grew exponentially on Zoom during the pandemic to include friends of friends and family in faraway places. “We’ve been able to reach people from as far away as Chicago and Tokyo and Whitehorse. Zoom has made it so wonderfully inclusive. There is a whole lot of networking that is happening online.”

One of those singers, who is from Delhi, India, contributed a recording of her singing in Bengali for use in the upcoming fundraiser, which will combine both live and pre-recorded segments. Juno Award-winner Bruce Cockburn will also perform at Voices Rising, and has recorded a 30-minute set that will air during the two-hour online fundraiser for Mozambique.

“We were crazy enough to call up his manager and put a proposal to him,” Jackson said. “I guess it hit him at the right time, and he said yes very quickly.”

That isn’t altogether surprising: Cockburn has worked extensively with relief organizations and charities in support of the African country, including a consortium of Canadian development agencies with whom he travelled to Mozambique in 1995. He wrote The Coming Rains and Mines of Mozambique about his trip, which is why his presence at a concert raising money for schools and scholarship programs in Mozambique, through Victoria charity the Caia Connection, is so meaningful.

Cockburn’s participation seemed to galvanize the project. Cockburn met the Mozambican refugee couple who started the charity backstage at one of his shows in Victoria 20 years ago, and musicians from the Caia district of Mozambique will perform Saturday as the Caia Connection aims to raise $20,000 in donations for solar power, water and food security projects in the area.

“It has been so great to make so many connections with so many people, thanks to this crazy pandemic,” Jackson said.

The choir’s last in-person rehearsal was on March 10, 2020. Since then, the number of participating members has been cut in half, from 100 to 50, with all rehearsals occuring online during the past 15 months. The hope is that regular rehearsals at the Church of Truth will resume in the fall, which would allow the choir to host hybird performances before the year is out.

A portion of the singers in the same room, singing in unison, would be a small but important step forward on the journey back to normalcy, Baker said.

“There’s an amazing sense of community amongst people who come together to sing songs. People loved continuing to gather through Zoom, it was kind of a lifeline for folks.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com