Hitting those high notes is a gift that often runs deep through the gene pool. The Judds, Donny & Marie, The Jackson 5 and the Jonas Brothers are just some families that have shared center stage. Most recently, the pandemic spawned a new mother/daughter singing duo. And though they may never sell out Madison Square Garden, through a new crop of virtual choirs, Pleasantville’s Sarah and Kaitlyn Lake have found their voices.
Just Keep Singing
Sarah and her daughter Kaitlyn, 13, have always shared a love for singing. When the pandemic hit, however, opportunities to nurture that passion quickly dwindled. “When everything shut down,” Sarah recalls, “I began researching virtual choirs and came across a cover of Billy Joel’s ‘The Longest Time’ by a group in Canada. As a single mom, it’s challenging to find time, but I decided that this is something that I really wanted for myself. I participated in some live and asynchronous rehearsals for various virtual choirs and ultimately found The Collective, a group that really resonated with me and my daughter.”
The Collective Virtual Choir was formed in March 2020 at the height of the pandemic when vocalists around the world felt robbed of their voices, while simultaneously being isolated from friends and family. Led by UK-based music teacher Simon Lubkowski, this free choir brought more than 1,500 people spanning 20 countries together. Due to a demand amongst young people aged under 26, as a follow-up to his initial endeavor, Lubkowski established The Collective Youth Chorus in June 2020. Participants of both choirs rehearse through interactive and/or recorded Zoom-based sessions that take place during a range of time zones. Vocalists record their submissions and view the final compilation on YouTube. It was the ideal format for the Lakes. The pair joyfully debuted in their respective choirs with ‘You Will be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen and haven’t looked back since.
Connecting Through Music
The Lakes expected to connect with like-minded people that shared their love of music, but they didn’t anticipate the strong community they gained along the way. “We connected with singers from all over the world and all walks of life,” Sarah describes. “The common theme,” she reports, “was a desire to keep singing through the pandemic. The choir gave people an opportunity to escape the isolation of quarantine and sing through their feelings.”
For Katilyn, these connections are especially meaningful. She explains, “It’s been the best experience because I’m autistic and the last few years have been very difficult in school. Through the choir, I’ve met people who understand me. It’s a safe place where I could be myself.” Sarah elaborates, “We sing with people of all abilities. For example, there’s a girl in Chicago who’s vision-impaired who Kaitlyn just thinks is the coolest person ever because she doesn’t allow anything to stop her from living life on her terms.
All Together Now
As the world begins to slowly resume normalcy, Sarah anticipates that The Collective will evolve. A song written by the choir’s director recently echoed her sentiments. “Simon’s most recent composition, ‘It’s Not the End,’ is about coming out of quarantine and resuming our lives,” Sarah summarizes. “Even though we came together in surreal circumstances and are moving on, it’s not the end. Kaitlyn and I recorded our submission together on our porch wearing our choir t-shirts. In unison, we sang the line, ‘I am not alone, I’m right here with you,’ which was particularly profound. In the future, the choir might look different and may not meet as regularly, but it will continue and one day soon, we hope to meet our new friends from across the pond in person.” The Lakes will get their wish. The choir director recently announced plans for in-person workshops and performances in the summer of 2022 in the UK. Sarah and Kaitlyn plan to attend.
Until then, singing will continue to play an active role in the Lakes’ lives. Kaitlyn reports that she’s witnessed Sarah gain the confidence to sing louder than in the past–Sarah is even beginning a search for a live choir. Similarly, Kaitlyn has plans to resume her former pastime of participating in the performing arts, integrating acting with singing on a stage. The duo enjoys singing a wide range of songs throughout their daily activities, but fondly recall a joint performance back in November, poignantly, ‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John as a bright moment in a dark year. They remain standing, singing and building connections as they reenter the world.