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School of Music

BYU Singers Record New Choral Performance While Social Distancing

Performance of ‘Alleluia’ by Elaine Hagenberg has more than 17,000 views on YouTube

At a time when many collegiate choral groups have been forced to postpone in-person rehearsals, the BYU Singers have found creative ways to continue making music together. Even amidst all the necessary safety precautions, students say they are just grateful to be singing. The choir’s busy performance schedule has been scaled back to one streamed concert this semester, so director Andrew Crane set out to engage with audiences by creating a special YouTube video. “Many of our conductor and singer colleagues are still stuck entirely online,” he said. “Teaching choir online is frustrating and nearly impossible, so we thought it would be good to show them a bit of hope for what’s possible.” On September 28, members of the BYU Singers gathered in person to rehearse “Alleluia” by Elaine Hagenberg. Safety measures included air purifiers, temperature checks and masks made specifically for choirs. In addition, every member stood safely distanced throughout the Madsen Recital Hall. This was the group’s first live session together since March. “We learned the song and recorded it after less than a week of rehearsals,” Crane said. The video premiered on October 8. Choir member Grace Hancock explained that one of the most difficult tasks was achieving a unified sound while standing so far apart from the other singers. “Still, even with all the safety measures, it’s very clear that we are extremely fortunate to be able to sing together,” she said. “Singing is an even more sacred experience to me than it was before.” “Choral singing in the era of COVID-19 requires an elevated level of commitment from each singer,” said student David Kime. “I felt that I needed to take more individual responsibility musically as well as spiritually and emotionally to counteract the new difficulties that we faced. It is during turbulent times that we are most pressed to innovate.” Sandefur Schmidt runs the BYU Singers Facebook page and YouTube channel. While the trend of virtual choirs since the pandemic began “has given some comfort to those who love choirs,” she said, “it is simply not the same as a choir singing together in the same space at the same time.” The video’s wide reach in such a short time has been a pleasant surprise, especially for a classical choir. “The video was one of the first to hit social media with a choir actually singing together in the same room since the pandemic. It had an immediate impact on those who heard it,” Schmidt said. “Choir pieces seldom go viral, especially without any paid boost. That makes the 17,000+ views on YouTube remarkable. Besides the choir’s 7000+ subscribers, those numbers indicate that people sought out the video or had a friend recommend it.” Schmidt shared a few of the comments made by viewers:

  • “It’s hard to express in words how this song affected me. So beautiful, vibrant, hopeful, spiritual. So wonderful to see people able to sing together in the same room!”
  • “This makes me feel so happy! Thank you for making it work and staying safe. Gorgeous work!”
  • “This made me cry! So glad to see they are making sacrifices to make beautiful music. That’s awesome to see. Can’t wait to sing with others again!”

The video has also made an impressive showing on Facebook. “More than 200,000 people had it show up in their newsfeeds because friends commented on or reacted to the video,” Schmidt said. “The numbers are still climbing as people yearn to have performance music in their lives again.” “The message of ‘Alleluia’ has brought me so much peace during this crazy semester,” said choir member Lindsay Bastian. “It’s a beautiful reminder that no matter what happens, I still have a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for me, and everything will work out in the end. “The response we’ve gotten from those who have seen the video has been very humbling,” she continued. “I’m incredibly grateful to be able to use my voice to bring hope and healing to others.” “This was the right piece at the right time: beautiful harmonies; a thoughtful, optimistic text; and a choir that could express feelings through their eyes when the bottom half of their faces could not be visible,” said Schmidt. “The lack of performing arts right now is a painful void in many lives. The video has truly been a gift to choir and viewers alike.”