Online Christmas: singing for screen is not real deal, but better than nothing

From a video dinner with strangers to an online Christmas bingo with the village. Throughout the country, associations, companies and cultural institutions organise initiatives to be together at a safe distance. So, like in the old days, but different.

Not so much the Christmas spirit but especially the singing together, makes that singing lover Aletta Kets (60) participate in the ‘sing and experience Christmas’ online course of the Concertgebouw from her living room in Landsmeer. Before the start of an interactive course evening, the participants receive the sheet music, such as Bach‘s Weihnachtsoratorium, to sing along with conductor and pianist on the evening itself.

Singing enthusiast Kets already participated in the courses of the Concertgebouw last year. The difference between the physical course and the online edition is huge, she says. โ€œIt’s even more fun to get together and sing together, but it does satisfy my need to sing together. I like a lot of things to do, but singing is the only thing I‘m doing all I’m doing about. It relaxes and I learn something from it.โ€

Cookie for the camera

It‘s not just fantastic. For example, the technique sometimes fails and the sound quality is less. It’s also โ€œpretty crazyโ€ to watch a screen in your own living room singing, says Kets. โ€œYou see the conductor and sometimes other participants. That‘s over 150, so it’s only part of it. I don‘t decorate my living room extra. But when I ate a cookie the other day during the course, I took off my camera. Of course, you don’t do that during a normal rehearsal.โ€

Despite the limitations, the atmosphere is quite ‘Christmas’, says Kets. โ€œAfterwards, many people say something in the chat. โ€œThank you!โ€ Or: โ€œNicely sung!โ€ People are extremely positive, everyone is happy that they can do something else. While: it is therefore quite limited. The conductor sees us, but he doesn‘t hear us sing. And yet you feel that there is a connection.โ€

The singer sees the evening as a getaway. โ€œI am a coordinator at an elderly activity centre in my daily life. Our work is tremendously determined by corona. This is very nice. And also nice to sniff culture. I give a warm heart to the cultural institutions, and help a little in this way.โ€

Video Christmas Dinner

Annelies Kastein, founder of the EetMee Foundation, launches special Christmas dinners for strangers who are matched to each other for the holidays. People who have never met each other, put ‘together together‘ at the table. People who participate are not necessarily lonely, says Karsten. โ€œWe don’t use that term anyway. People who participate are often very diverse: from expats to introverts.โ€

Since 2009 she has been organising dinner parties at people‘s homes in the Utrecht region. Since this spring, an online matching platform was introduced so that she could offer meetings across the country. And then Corona came. โ€œThe app had to be rebuilt and soon online dinners could take place. Then you might think, โ€œOh, my God, I’m tired of video calling all day, but the funny thing is that because you eat together, you‘re actually setting up for a while. And then it gets surprisingly cozy sometimes.โ€

Getting the Christmas atmosphere online is quite a bit of a search, says Kastein. She has tips: โ€œPut your plate in the picture, put on nice clothes, cook a festive menu – or agree what you’re making together – and put on a candle or the tree in the picture. Sometimes there is no click, but normally it is. On a fun evening, people really forget the screen.โ€

Christmas show with the village

โ€œ Of course, it‘s not the real deal at all,โ€ says Marty van de Loo. โ€œBut we do want to try to create that Christmas spirit. People have missed it so muchโ€. Van de Loo is co-initiator of an online Christmas show in Helvoirt, Brabant on Boxing Day. Residents can buy tickets, part of which goes to the food bank.

โ€œ Normally there is a Christmas tree where the youth meets, at the football club there is a bingo every year. And not now. At the same time, we all know why we’re doing it,โ€ says Van de Loo. His village has about 5000 inhabitants. โ€œThere is little to do, which is why we thought: maybe fun to organize something on Christmas Day. Everyone is at home and you have seen the family a little bit.โ€

โ€œ With the Christmas tree and Santa Claus in the picture, it will be a real show, which will be recorded in a studio in Haarenโ€, says Van de Loo. โ€œAmong other things, we do a bingo and there are several prizes to win, all sponsored by local companies. Santa‘s looking for four presenters, picks them up in a sleigh, and that’s back in that video. We try to do it a bit with a sense of humor; of course, they are familiar to us all.โ€