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News >  Spokane

While following social distancing rules, Manito Park choir works to uplift

UPDATED: Fri., March 20, 2020

While many of Mary Benham’s favorite activities – dancing, church and teaching – have been canceled, she and a few others have found a way to still stay connected and do what they love.

Friday afternoon, Benham and a few friends, including singing teacher Robin Marks, stood 6 to 10 feet apart in a semicircle in upper Manito Park, singing old classics and gospel music.

Benham, who teaches Spanish for Spokane Parks and Recreation, said she hopes she’ll be able to do this every Friday.

“I’m a terrible singer, but I love music,” she said

Marks, a yoga teacher and retired jazz singer who led the group in a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” said she hoped the small gathering will lift spirits of the singers and anyone who can hear.

“We’re all holding onto little threads of positive where we can find them,” Marks said.

Marks and the other members of the group tried to follow guidelines for social distancing, keeping the gathering under 10 people.

She chose to hold the gathering in a park and sing “What a Wonderful World” to remind herself, her friends and anyone else in hearing distance of the good things, like nature, that they still have.

“We can lift our spirits by noticing what is wonderful around us and focusing on that as much as we can,” Marks said. “That doesn’t mean we’re turning our back on ways to be cautious and ways to be helpful.

“If we elevate our emotion, we’ll be sending a little positivity.”

When the group finished singing all the songs they had chosen in advance, they took turns choosing comforting songs they all knew, including “Amazing Grace,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.”

After a half hour of songs, they started planning their next meeting, in Manito Park, still 10 feet apart and still less than 10 people.

Marks said she hopes to hold this gathering again, unless the restrictions on going out make it too difficult.

“It’s nice how we can find ways to stay connected through the distance,” she said.

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