Cardinal Choirs in the Time of COVID-19

For many students on William Jewell College’s campus, activities outside of their academic studies are a time to decompress and share an experience with friends. These activities range from theatre to intramurals and football to choir. All of these activities have been affected and changed by the rise of COVID-19 in the United States since late January. For 48 students on the Hill, the chance to sing with their friends and de-stress at the end of the day has been flipped on its head.

The William Jewell choir program, typically consisting of Choral Ensemble, Concert Choir and Choral Scholars, has been rearranged to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus. The 48 members of Jewell’s choir program have been separated into six small ensembles – with two ensembles meeting with Dr. Maglione in the afternoon outside, weather-permitting, near the concession stand in Greene Stadium. 

Each singer is assigned to a spot, marked with a white X, that is distanced from the singers around them. The students have all been given a special singer’s mask. The mask, while still protecting the wearer and those around them, sticks out farther from the face of the wearer, allowing for better sound and air circulation. 

The soprano-alto choir was separated into two groups with one singing “The March of the Women” by Ethel Smyth and the other group singing “Ave Maria” by B.E. Boykin. The tenor-bass choir will be singing “Requiescat” by Andrea Ramsey. 

During the rehearsal process, each of the three groups will be split into the aforementioned six small ensembles and will use the Acapella app to showcase the progress that they have made on the pieces. Dr. Maglione hopes to use a new app, with a scheduled release date in October, for the final performance as it should allow for up to 50 participants in collaboration with a similar end product to the Acapella app. The creation of this new app would allow the choir to have performances with the entirety of the choir. Performing with the whole of the choir restores some semblance of normalcy, but the choir experience that these singers have come to know and love will not be what it was until the threat of COVID-19 is gone. 

Georgia Hatfield, first-year music education major, spoke about her experiences in the choir program so far. 

“I assumed that I would be in one huge choir … and every single day we would work on learning the music together,” Hatfield said. 

Instead of the large choir that she had been expecting, Hatfield has been placed into one of the small ensembles as well as the Choral Scholars ensemble. However, these changes to the typical structure of the choir have not gotten her down.

“I knew that a smaller school and a smaller music program would mean more attention to detail, but this makes me feel like they really care about us and are trying their best to think things through for the safety of not only the professors but the students [as well],” said Hatfield.

In regards to the precautions taken by the music department, Hatfield said she never feels unsafe. Overall, her time in the choir so far has been positive, with some expected setbacks.

“It is much harder to make connections and get to know the other singers in the group,” said Hatfield.

Social distancing and the masks make it difficult for those new on campus, not just those in the choir program, to create the deep connections that are so widely touted by students of Jewell, but that does not mean we must disregard either of those things. We must temporarily forego these “normal” connections on campus to fight and stop the pandemic in this country. Once we have done that we will be able to finally remove our masks, hug our friends and forge those deep connections that we all heard about on our tours of the college.

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