Teen sings through pandemic, and a move to Churchill Falls, on Zoom with Atlantic Boychoir

·3 min read
From left: Nash Billard, 13, Ashley Billard, Theresa Wolokoff and Andrew Billard. Nash Billard is a member of the Atlantic Boychoir and travels from Labrador for rehearsals.  (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)
From left: Nash Billard, 13, Ashley Billard, Theresa Wolokoff and Andrew Billard. Nash Billard is a member of the Atlantic Boychoir and travels from Labrador for rehearsals. (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)

The COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to dampen 13-year-old Nash Billard's love of music. In fact, it may have even made it easier for him sing with his choir.

Nash has been singing in choirs since he was seven, and currently performs with the Atlantic Boychoir. Then in 2019, Nash, his father Ashley, and their family moved to Churchill Falls in Labrador West.

Despite the challenges of living 1,800 kilometres away from the choir base in St. John's, the family decided to keep up his connection to the choir. Founder in 2016 by Jennifer Beynon-Martinec and Jakub Martinec, the choir is for male singers ages eight to 22 and it travels across Canada and throughout Europe for concerts.

At first Nash's family found it difficult to keep up, and used Air Miles to fly him to retreats in Atlantic Canada. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, and everything went into lockdown.

"In a way, it worked in our favour for Nash because everybody was locked down. So it didn't matter. They were all rehearsing over Zoom, so it didn't matter where they were," said Nash's father, Ashley.

Valuable life lessons

Ashley said the expense of flying to retreats, clinics and concerts is a challenge, but it's a valuable life lesson for a child to travel internationally and perform in front of audiences and their peers.

"He's travelled Europe, he's travelled at festivals in Cornwall, the boys played at the Canadian ambassador's house in Paris." Ashley said. "So the boys did really well and it was really a big connection."

Ashley said Nash performed at a sold out show at Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg, Germany, with the German Bohemian Orchestra. During one German Christmas carol, Ashley said, the audience stood up and sang along.

Nash said being in the choir is a real experience and helped him make new friends. He performed Silent Night for the community in the original German, as a solo with a piano accompaniment at their school Christmas concert.

"He did a great job," Ashley said. "[He] got up there by himself and normally this was a big choir production in Germany and this was a big deal.… Me and his mom are in tears. I'm sure it's coming to a new town too. You want to have a good impression."

Nash hopes to continue going to retreats in Atlantic Canada, and the family is fundraising to send him with the choir to Italy in the summer, if COVID-19 restrictions allow. Nash hopes to stay in the choir as long as he can and intends to continue performing after he ages out.

"When everyone's voices sing together in the choir, it sounds like one big person singing," Nash said. "And you can just hear all of your friends right next to you and right behind you, singing with you. It's amazing."

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