A Christmas concert with a twist was held Wednesday at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, N.S., including a version of Silent Night with truly silent singers.
Students from the deaf studies program signed, rather than sang the Christmas carols, including favourites such as Silent Night and White Christmas.
The students are learning to become American Sign Language interpreters, and the choir was made up of both deaf and hearing classmates.
Keeping up with the music can be difficult. The grammar of sign language is different from speech, so following words in a song is a challenge.
"They did a great job," said Jim McDermott, the program director. "We’ve only had a few practices and I thought it was really successful."
McDermott is deaf, but can follow the vibrations of the music. He acted as choir director for the performance.
The fun part of performing Christmas carols is the expressive and dramatic signing.
"I find it a lot more fun, and more together with everyone," said student Travis Waye.
Even those who are deaf and accomplished at sign language learned a few new tricks.
"This is the first time I’ve done it, so I learned some signs along the way," Alan Williams said.
The signing must remain accurate, but it is not the same as normal conversation.
"This is something that I really enjoy, the performance side of sign language," McDermott said. "We want to make sure that we show that this type of signing is different than just regular conversational signing."