Boston City Singers use shutdown to focus on others’ loneliness

The youthful members of the Boston City Singers (BCS) have kept busy during pandemic shutdown time looking for different new ways to fulfill the organization’s 2020 mission of “addressing loneliness through kindness.”  

BCS was founded in Dorchester 25 years ago and has grown to provide music instruction to more than 500 young people aged 4-18 in 16 different programs.

Jane Money, its founding artistic director, said that her initial focus when the coronavirus outbreak began to limit activity was the safety and well-being of the kids as she was encouraging them to support their families, friends, and neighbors.

The mission “couldn’t have been more relevant than it now is,” said Money. “We’ve been trying to build our communities at this time through our kindness project. We would like the kids to be involved in thinking outside of their own homes and circumstances.” 

Cora McAllister, a 15-year-old Tour Choir member, has found many ways to connect with while sheltering during the viral crisis. “I’ve been with BCS for nine years, and it’s a really important part of my life,” she said. “During quarantine we’ve all been finding ways to connect with each other and our biggest goal is building a community of kindness. We have a project called 1,000 paper planes where we write one of our favorite quotes or song lyrics and we send them to our friends, family and neighbors.

“I’ve also been trying to help my family out in small ways,” she added with a laugh. “Sometimes I’ll  try to cook dinner even though I’m definitely not the best cook.” 

Added Luke Van Reijendam, an 18-year-old Tour Choir member and recent graduate of Boston Latin High School: “One of the most important things for Boston City Singers, regardless of the pandemic, is to provide a sense of a community and oftentimes it’s about more than singing; we want to provide continuity in the communities we’ve built.

“All of us are in a choir because we believe in the power of music,” he said, “and we want to share it with our communities. I think we’ve found a lot of ways to keep doing that.” 

For all that, there’s always work that needs doing. In addition to weekly Zoom sessions and virtual choirs, BCS’s Tour Choir —ages 11-18— is preparing for a virtual international competition.

In keeping the spirit of their musical collaborations alive, BCS staff invited singers from all ensembles to perform together as a virtual choir. The video will be submitted to a competition organized by Interkultur, an organization that aims to bring people and cultures together.

The video is being produced by Boston City Singers’ Artist in Residence, Dr. Matthew Leese.

Tour Choir members have been working independently, listening and responding to new and unfamiliar forms of music, which are posted on the virtual classroom Seesaw. 

High school juniors and seniors are also spending a lot of time on their college applications, preparing for SATs, and applying for scholarships.
Carmen Piedad, programs manager at Boston City Singers, said the singers have adapted in creative ways to using virtual platforms. 

“We’re definitely emphasizing the different areas where kids can be contributing to their communities. Many kids volunteer in writing letters to senior members of a choir in New Hampshire,” she said. “They’ve talked to them about how hard it has been missing choir, and they recognize that seniors are suffering even more because they really can’t go outside and are at higher-risk.”