Knox student collaboration creates first-ever virtual choir at William Osler Health System
This spring and summer Jonathon Zarb, Knox College 2021 Master of Pastoral Studies graduate and Spiritual Health Therapy and Education Coordinator for the William Osler Health System, teamed up with Claire Lemiski, Knox College Master of Theological Studies student and leader of the Knox College Virtual Choir. After seeing some of Claire’s work with Knox’s virtual choir, Jonathon asked Claire if she’d consider working on a project to encourage the Osler staff. The result was a moving rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over troubled water”:
“This project was dedicated to staff from staff as an encouragement,” said Jonathon. “In these times, creativity is a source of resilience. It’s therapeutic for the singers as well as for the listeners. Burnout and compassion fatigue are very high for healthcare staff, but this kind of therapeutic exercise gives us opportunity to reconnect with something bigger than ourselves and to re-energize.”
“It was really special,” said Jonathon. “After we released the video, we got more than 30 messages from staff saying how much it had meant to them. Most said it brought tears to their eyes.”
Jonathon and Claire first met at Knox College Orientation Day in 2018. Both were wearing “Come from Away” (the musical) T-shirts, which served as a great point of connection, and they’ve been friends since. For this project, Jonathon recruited the Osler staff singers, and Claire created the musical arrangement and the online tutorials to learn and record the music.
Due to the pandemic, Claire had been temporarily laid off from her work as an airline captain. She used the time to explore her musical gifts in a new way and created the “Sing-A-Part” website, singapart.org. Her virtual choir work began with Knox College, then expanded to other church groups. She said, “This experience with Osler was the first time I’ve worked with a non-church virtual choir. We tried to find a song that would be uplifting and positive for this group, as it’s been a tough year and a half. It was a great experience, and Jonathon and I were both quite pleased with how it turned out.”
Jonathon said, “I can’t thank Claire enough for pulling this together, for her ingenuity and creativity.”