American Classical Hymns

A Repertoire for the Covid Era

The results of this synchronous, socially distanced recording session by members of the Ball State University Chamber Choir can be heard in our Choral Showcase.

For the time being, recordings will presumably be done either in synchronous, socially distanced settings or through non-synchronous, remote means.

We hear the first option—singing together as an ensemble, but at a safe distance apart—in the showcase’s recordings from the Mirandola Ensemble and the Ball State University Chamber Choir, for instance.

The second option—non-synchronous, remote recording—involves singers separated from each other in space and time. In one typical approach, each singer listens to a pre-recorded piano track on headphones while recording their own part. Those individual tracks are later combined (the piano might or might not be included in the final mix). Normal as such methods are in pop music, choirs are struggling through a process of adjustment. But as we hear in showcase recordings from the University of Minnesota Chamber Singers and the Mosaic United Methodist Church Choir, what may feel cold and impersonal in its creation startles us with the warmth and intimacy of its sound. The singers are remote, but the mics are close. 

Members of the Mosaic UMC Choir (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), in a non-synchronous, remote recording of Weber’s LOVE DIVINE

Non-synchronous recording also raises the exciting possibility—impossible in traditional choral singing, commonplace in pop recording—of having the same singer contribute more than one vocal track to a recording. Paul Damico-Carper offers deeply sensitive renditions of three tunes on our choral showcase in which he sings all four parts himself.

At the time of its creation, the repertoire in this anthology was largely about striking a deal with an imperfect world. Performances of symphonies and piano trios were scarce, the taste for a little Mozart or Beethoven, widespread. Once more today the musical experiences we might most want are beyond our grasp. But once more we have these tunes. If the limitations of socially distanced or remote recording put Beethoven’s Mass in C, say, out of a choir’s reach, APTHORPE, PARKER, or REDEMPTION afford its members a limited but meaningful point of contact with Beethoven’s musical world, and each other’s.

‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,

‘Whether they work together or apart.’

—Robert Frost