Trinity Music Department plans for virtual holiday performances

Contrary to previous years, Trinity’s various music ensembles prepare recorded pieces for the holidays

Although Trinity University’s music ensembles traditionally hold Christmas concerts, this semester has posed many roadblocks in being able to conduct traditional Christmas concerts. Many of the music department’s ensembles are not holding one due to both the volume of members required to successfully hold an in-person Christmas concert and the logistical and technological challenges accompanying virtual synchronization. Luckily, the music department’s Christmas spirit is being maintained as best as it can. Through much adaptation and creativity, the Trinity Symphony Orchestra, Handbell Ensemble and choral program are going to be holding virtual Christmas concerts. Dr. David Heller, chair of the music department and assistant professor of music, detailed the department’s standing on the safety of performing this semester and plans.

“We’re limited in the number of people who can be in the building. The Christmas concert involves over two hundred performers and then your audience is severely cut since we’re not allowing anybody coming in from off-campus. The second thing is the students are gone since they leave Thanksgiving,” said Heller. “We are offering virtual Christmas events instead. We are doing a virtual Christmas Vespers, which is the big service in the Chapel of Lessons and Carols involving the choir, me and some other faculty members. The handbell ensemble created a Christmas program.”

The Handbell Ensemble put together a 30-minute Christmas program that will be going out over the Trinity website next month. Ethan Jones, a senior and student assistant, shed light on the way the members had to adjust the way they rehearsed given the need for physical distance and other new requirements.

“Rehearsals this semester were challenging sometimes because we had to change so many things. We had rehearsal twice a week in Laurie Auditorium to prepare to record our Christmas concert, and we featured not only bells but flute, organ and percussion. Usually, we all share bells and play them right next to each other, but staying 6 feet apart meant we had to use our ears more when performing as we had to listen to each other more closely,” said Jones.

Senior Kyana Saidi-Nejad, who has been in the Chamber Singers for all four years, elaborated on the choir’s setup for the Vespers Program, which consists of the well-known carols “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.”

“For the recording, the chapel was dressed up the way it would be. There are poinsettias and candles all over. We got to hear some of the chaplain’s readings. We have been practicing in various locations, but it was our first time together in the chapel,” said Saidi-Nejad. “Though we have been rehearsing together in person, most recently, in the Northrup Garage — masked, 15 ft apart and for very brief periods — it was our first time making a recording together in person. It was definitely a learning experience.”

Both Saidi-Nejad and Jones, seniors who have witnessed firsthand the impacts of the drastic changes this semester, expressed their appreciation for having the privilege of performing in whatever way possible.

“Dr. Seighman reminded us the day of the recording that we are doing this for the people at home, to give them comfort and warmth, and let them enjoy an annual tradition and have comfort from that. He has been really vocal, especially this semester, about showing us that he cares and is compassionate towards each of us,” said Saidi-Nejad. ”He worked really hard to find the best way to do this and has constantly tried to adapt what we do to make it the best for all of us.”

“It was really inspiring to know that we were able to accomplish so much during such a stressful and unforeseen semester. We were able to make magical music with each other and experience what we as musicians had been missing during the quarantine,“ said Jones.

Stay tuned next month for recordings of both the Bell Choir and Vesper Program.