MARLBOROUGH – What started out as a simple quest to continue choral singing in a safe manner during the pandemic has turned into a “hobby gone completely out of control,” according to Marlborough resident Bryce Denney.
He and his wife, Kathryn, have recently directed and produced a 76-minute documentary called “Drive to Sing” that is currently showing in film festivals across the nation.
It all began in 2020 when face-to-face gatherings were declared unsafe, and choral singing was at the top of the list of potential virus-spreading events.
As a singer, choir director and music teacher, Kathryn found herself at loose ends and restless.
“The ACDA [American Choral Directors Association] said that singing was one of the most dangerous things you could do, with all the aerosols, and it might be years before we could get back to it,” Kathryn said.
They tried Zoom, but the delay interfered with singing. People tried participating in virtual choirs, but Kathryn said the singer could only hear themselves.
It just wasn’t working for us,” she said. “Luckily, Bryce is very creative and a problem-solver by nature, so he rigged up a way for four of us to sing together from separate bedrooms in our home and it worked. We decided to try taking it outside to our driveway and invited members of my choral group to join in.”
Through Facebook Live, word spread, and the Denneys found that there were others out there who were trying similar things.
“We decided to document everything we were doing to encourage others to attempt their own versions because it really wasn’t that difficult,” Bryce said.
The choirs moved from their driveway to church and school parking lots throughout the area and continued to expand.
Social media played a key role, Kathryn said.
There were people in New Jersey who were members of the nationwide Barbershop Harmony Society, which built a similar system and wanted to do webinars.
“We were excited to become a part of that. There were hundreds of people, and one was a writer for the New York Times. He called and said he’d be in Boston and asked to attend an event,” Kathryn recalled.
After the article was published, the phone was ringing off the hook. The Today Show came to an event in Newton where they sang Brahm’s “Requiem” to commemorate all who lost their lives from COVID-19.
Drive to Sing
The Denneys found it very inspirational to witness the lengths that people would go to in order to sing together.
As the pandemic slowed and restrictions began to lift, Bryce decided to attempt making a documentary to remember how in the midst of the worst of times, something beautiful was born. Reaching out to a new community of friends, he was able to gather snippets of films and photos to put together a story showing the variety of music styles, weather issues, geography, age groups, health regulations, and town permitting rules, right down to how to park 60 cars correctly for maximum sound efficiency.
The film, “The Drive to Sing,” is debuting in several film festivals in the next few months. A trailer is available on the website, thedrivetosing.com where there is a page listing all film festival showings. There people can also leave suggestions and feedback.
“Where do we go from here? Well, we would love to see the film on PBS,” laughed Kathryn.
While this isn’t the start of a film career, Kathryn said they wanted to tell the story of how something was able to happen during that period of time.
“This is probably one of the few pandemic stories that is positive,” Kathryn said. “It shows the importance of singing, how good it is for mental health.”