The “Hallelujah” chorus gives light to new opportunities during the pandemic


Image Credit:

The FHC music program has overcome many difficulties this year.

Senior Molly Vonk loves the ability to be an individual while being part of something bigger than herself. As she sings in her choir classes, she can paint her own voice in bold strokes while softly blending it with others’.

This year, though, Molly’s performance in the “Hallelujah” chorus has been more similar to a collage than a painting.

Each choir student choosing to participate in the chorus records themself for their part of the song “Hallelujah,” and, from there, they submit their videos which will be stitched together into a pandemic-friendly performance.

Although the chorus seems like it would be a solo preparation, the music teachers have been working hard with their students. Choir teacher Sean Ivory has been helping his students sing to the best of their ability for this concert.

“I prepared the piece of music with my choir, and then I gave them the instructions on how to record their video,” Ivory said. “Then, it was all sort of in their hands.”

Even though only the zero-hour Central Singers were required to be in the chorus, many other students chose to participate in performing “Hallelujah.”

Since participating in the video is a more open option than a one-time concert, joining in has been a great opportunity for many students. On the other hand, the video-submissions do not come near the excitement of a real concert.

“All of this would be much better if we were singing in a room together. Singing is one of those things that doesn’t translate very well over zoom [and] over the remote learning fashion,” Ivory said. “So, it’s been a tough year in choir, [and] not just mine; choirs everywhere have been struggling.”

Molly believes that while a great alternative, video concerts are not a comparative substitution for in-person concerts.

I definitely think that in the sense of this year, it’s a good opportunity and a good option for persevering through the difficulties that this year has presented to us.”

— Molly Vonk

“I definitely think that in the sense of this year, it’s a good opportunity and a good option for persevering through the difficulties that this year has presented to us,” said Molly, who is in chorale and Central Singers. “But, I would not say that it beats [having] a concert. If we were able to have concerts, I would definitely choose having a concert over doing these vocal recordings.”

It’s not only the quality of the sound that is different virtually, but also the overall emotions that are felt by the singers when performing. There is a certain ambiance of live concerts that have a tension like no other; the excitement is what really brings the concerts to life. Sadly, virtual concerts lack this positive pressure.

In addition to this, the entire group of singers can have a large impact on a single person’s voice. A huge benefit of being in a choir is to be a single part of a whole, uniting and creating the same sound together.

“It doesn’t have the same nervous feeling when you submit your recording versus standing in front of an audience: having that applause, or being with your choir, sitting next to each other, singing without a mask,” Molly said. “Being able to hear the people singing next to you plays a big role in how you end up sounding as a singer.”

Fortunately for the band and orchestra classes, their performance of “Hallelujah” was live in the auditorium. Senior Tommie Payne was glad the school was able to accommodate this. While it was not optional for these groups, it was an enjoyable experience. Since recordings for band and orchestra would be much more difficult to synchronize, they were able to perform live as one, even though the members were six feet away.

“I would 100% want to [play] in-person more than virtual,” said Tommie, a member of the band. “[In] virtual, you just don’t get the same experience, and it’s way harder to play with everyone.”

Because the band is so tightly-knit, Tommie wouldn’t want to substitute a live concert for a pre-recorded video.

Tommie doesn’t see the concept of a remote performance as a complete loss, though. While being able to work with others is as crucial to playing as anything else, just being able to play at all is both a gift and a way to work on skills.

“I think as long as you’re playing, you will always improve,” Tommie said. “[Do I think] you improve as much [as you would] with a band? I don’t think so. But, any sort of playing is better than none.”

Tommie isn’t the only one who thinks this way. Ivory also thinks that singing remotely or even just socially distanced can affect the way someone’s voice sounds. The choir has had to move to bigger rooms in order to be socially distanced when everyone is in school.

“[Singing distanced is] really hard because you don’t have the same kind of support sound around you that you’re used to,” Ivory said. “It kind of feels like you’re singing all by yourself.”

Thankfully, there are many upsides to this new way of learning. Since the recording is such a different concept from what all of the musicians are adjusted to, it is a chance for many to grow.

Molly sees a light in the clouds of the pandemic as the video recording method gives her a chance to improve.

“It presents an opportunity that nobody would have if we weren’t in the situation that we’re in right now,” Molly said. “People who then go on to do things like the musical this year, [which] we have to record by ourselves [since] we’re making a movie, in a way [prepares them] for movies, vocal recordings, [and] all these different aspects of singing that usually we wouldn’t practice.”