SUDBURY -- Since mid-March when COVID-19 hit Sudbury and the world, choirs in Greater Sudbury fell silent. But it also spurred many of them to find a way to have their voices heard, despite the pandemic.

“I started talking and zooming with local choir directors to discuss what the next year might look like for our various groups,” Ralph McIntosh, general manager of the Young Sudbury Singers (YSS) and former music teacher, said in a news release Tuesday.

“Several choirs were discussing organizing online rehearsals and making videos, and one had already participated in a virtual recording project with singers in southern Ontario.”

When McIntosh's wife, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, overheard one of the conversations, she told him that, since they can’t have fireworks on Canada Day, they need something to help the community celebrate.

With that, Sudbury’s 'O Canada Project' was hatched.

After securing the interest of several other directors, Ralph McIntosh researched how to produce a virtual choir video, obtained funding support from YSS and the Bel Canto Chorus, and recruited a local recording technician who had worked with YES Theatre on its virtual fundraiser for the Sudbury Food Bank.

He then wrote a choral arrangement of the national anthem in both French and English, and invited members of five community choirs to participate.

“We owe a huge debt of thanks to the people who have helped with the technical aspects of this production, specifically Tess Dufour and Dr. Hoi Cheu, as this has been a huge learning curve for me,” McIntosh said.

It was a learning curve as well for the 100 singers who signed up to record their parts at home and submit them online. The virtual mass choir includes members of The Bel Canto Chorus, Nickel City Sound, Sudbury Chamber Singers, Sudbury Studio Singers, and YSS.

They are joined by local essential service workers from Greater Sudbury EMS, Fire, Police Services, Health Sciences North, Pioneer Manor, and Public Health Sudbury & District, as well as several community leaders.

The performance premiere this morning, June 30, on local media and on the Young Sudbury Singer’s YouTube channel.

Sudbury Celebrates Canada Day on July 1st will also feature the performance as part of their virtual event.

“We hope that people from all across the country and those Canadians living abroad will stand with us on Canada Day to sing along with Greater Sudbury’s virtual Canada Day Choir,” McIntosh said.