It all started in July when Don Staffiin watched a YouTube video of Bryce and Kathryn Denney about their crazy idea of having a church choir rehearsal in their driveway, safely, by giving each singer their own mic and piping the sound back to them via FM. SHH's leadership was inspired and within a week had a makeshift set up wired together in Christian Hunter's front yard in Flemington, NJ. Six singers and a director. Countless shivers, smiles and tears of joy. One week later 12 singers, and more joy and harmony for the first time in some five months. In only took one more week and an ever improving set up of equipment and sound technicians and the Somerset Hills Harmony chorus was back - two dozen singers and a heavenly reunion of the SHH family.
From that first night in the front yard, SHH knew that this drive-in rehearsal approach would be a success and provide a safe singing environment for one of the most concerning activities in a pandemic - sustained exhalation while singing. But with each participant in their cocoon of a car they were shielding their fellow crooners while keeping themselves safe. And SHH knew it had to spread the word, just like the Denneys did.
So SHH leadership reached out to the Denneys and instantly bonded in the jubilation of bringing voices back to choirs. They dialed in their team of experts to teach choirs around the world how they could follow their lead. The Barbershop Harmony Society provided a venue to host a series of webinars created by SHH to demistify the novel approach and teach chorus leaders how to succeed with this "Hot Rods and Harmony". The webinar series was attended by representatives of hundreds of ensembles and choruses. The Denneys online resources include a constantly updated guide to equipment and process for starting a drive in rehearsal space. SHH, the Denneys and a growing legion of followers have enticed choruses in four countries to emerge from their involuntary hibernation to join their voices in song again.
Words cannot express the pride and joy in not only reuniting the SHH family, but to see similar experiences being shared by so many other choruses. However, the words of Bob Morris impressively captured the story in The New York Times on October 7, 2020 with a surprising nod to the efforts of Somerset Hills Harmony. You can give it a read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/arts/music/coronavirus-choir.html
The Times inspired a producer of The TODAY Show (Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist) to prepare a fantastic feature piece on the drive-in rehearsals, the Denneys and a shout out to Somerset Hills Harmony in New Jersey. The piece timely aired on November 22nd following a landmark "Open Sing" event where SHH welcomed new friends to the parking lot to share in the joy of Harmony. The Sunday TODAY feature can be viewed online here: https://www.today.com/video/this-choir-sings-in-harmony-from-their-cars-to-keep-everyone-safe-96400453971
The road that led the chorus this far has many more miles to be traveled, including a first of its kind drive-in a cappella concert with holiday light spectacular, including a community sing along of holiday favorites and concert performance - all from the parked studio settings of sedans and SUVs. The December 5th event will be held at Pluckemin Presbyterian Church at approximately 5pm and is open to the public - where participants just need to set their FM dial and sing along from the comfort of their car.
"SHH" is an incredibly ironic acronymn for the chorus, because they are anything but quiet. And the world is a more harmonious place during one of the darkest times for performing arts because this group has been ever so vocal.