FARGO — The Beatles’ classic song “Eleanor Rigby” is a narrative on loneliness and isolation, but for members of Great Plains Harmony, the song has become a happy reunion of sorts.
The Fargo-based vocal group released a video last week of the song, with members singing the tune together, remotely, from their own homes.
While the group has met via Zoom once a week for rehearsals, this is the first public performance since social distancing protocols went into effect last March.
“We wanted to keep that energy of the chorus going. We wanted to do something,” says Gordon Moe, spokesman for the group that marked its 70th anniversary last year.
While the Zoom rehearsals kept members in touch, they wanted to keep producing music that could be enjoyed by the community.
In the summer, members started discussing options. In-person concerts were out, but online performances were a strong possibility. Spearheaded by member Justin McCullough, they looked into the logistics of recording and releasing socially distanced performances and the logistics of recording.
“There had to be a lot of encouragement,” Moe says.
While members aren’t shy about singing, they are accustomed to performing as a group, surrounded by other voices.
“Recording yourself singing solo can be kind of intimidating,” he says.
Any hesitation was outweighed by the desire to sing together — even if recorded separately.
“There was a lot of interest from the guys to make music,” he says.
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Moe credits group member Ken Frank for masterminding the recording and editing process.
“He dove in deep,” Moe says.
Members started recording and submitting videos around mid-October. The video was posted to YouTube on Jan. 6.
Great Plains Harmony is an all-male chorus, but viewers will see a female singer in the bottom row on the screen. That’s Sheila Childs, the director.
Moe says the group decided on “Eleanor Rigby” in part because it was lyrically fitting for the current time. With so many separated from friends and family due to social distancing restrictions, there is an extra gravity to the line, “All the lonely people.”
The number was also part of the group’s repertoire and one that wouldn’t take as much rehearsing.
The video has only been online for a few days, but members are hearing good things about it.
“We’re seeing tremendous feedback,” Moe says. “We want to stay relevant as an arts organization in the Fargo-Moorhead community. We offer music to the community and we want to keep it going.”
For decades, Great Plains Harmony singers have branched off into barbershop quartets for hire to serenade on Valentine’s Day. Moe says the group is looking into offering some kind of barbershop singing for the holiday and maybe more video performances in the future.
“There’s more we want to do,” he says.