By Sarah Hall
Last Sunday, Sewanee’s Chamber Choir, a student organization, upheld the tradition of Choral Evensong with eight members leading the service in All Saints’ Chapel. The traditional evening service guided church members through seven pieces of music, accompanied by intermittent readings. While the service itself remains the same, the choir has made quite a few changes in order to keep this tradition alive at Sewanee through the current circumstances.
One of these changes includes the number of chamber choir members that are allowed to perform at one time. The chamber choir is open to the idea of having more members in the future. However, each service now only allows a group of eight to ten members of the choir to engage in a service. As a result of this change, the frequency of the event has increased.
“Generally in the past at All Saints’ we did Evensong once a month. This year they’re doing Evensong as often as once a week. And now that the choir is so split up, there’s an opportunity to hear a lot of different voices,” said Alice Belshaw (C’22), a soprano in Sewanee’s Chamber Choir.
Along with changes in frequency, the choirs of Sewanee have also implemented changes in how they prepare for events such as Evensong.
“Usually, the choir will rehearse for three or four weeks beforehand. For the one that we just did on Sunday, the chamber choir rehearsed for four hours total. That’s mostly because this year, rehearsals can only be half an hour long,” said Belshaw.
The choir is also getting used to some of the more general COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Since research has found that singing can easily spread germs, the University Choir and the Chamber Choir have been taking these precautions very seriously, implementing twelve feet of distance between singers and ensuring that each choir member is wearing a mask even while singing.
“Everyone is super far apart, which can make it very difficult to hear other people, which is something the University Choir has been working on a lot. And of course we have to wear a mask,” Belshaw said. “It’s very different because it’s really hard to breathe. Breathing while singing is so important, and it is hard to take that big breath with the mask, especially when you only have a second to take that breath.”
The tradition of Evensong at Sewanee remains steadfast as the University Choir and the chamber choir both work hard to ensure the safety of its members while also keeping song-led services such as this one available to all. Despite the many changes, students such as Belshaw maintain the benefits of these services.
“Evensong is my favorite service. Church can be a little scary to some people, but the beautiful thing about Evensong is you can really just go and enjoy the music. It’s also in the evening so it’s a great way to wind down and end your week,” said Belshaw.