Berry Singers performs for live audience

Grace Jordan, Campus Carrier arts & living editor

Last weekend, the Berry Singers performed the Faure Requiem. While closed for in-person viewing to most of the Berry community, the event was recorded and will be available for viewing online. Erika Becerra | Campus Carrier

Berry’s music department has seen a great shift in their usual performances due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Many performers have had to sing, act or dance to an empty room. This past Saturday, however, Berry Singers were able to perform for a live audience for the first time in over a year. 

The singers performed a piece called Faure Requiem. Paul Neal, associate professor of music, was the director of the Saturday performance and said the purpose of the piece was to pay homage to the deaths the pandemic has caused. 

“We chose Faure Requiem because the title of requiem is a piece that is written in memory of the past, people that have died,” Neal said. “It was one of those things that we felt like the Faure Requiem is a great opportunity for us to remember those that have lost their lives to COVID, but a way for us to also remember the loss we have all felt through this whole pandemic.” 

Not only did COVID-19 take from us loved ones and family, but the Berry singers were also impacted by the sudden shutdown of our country. 

“Berry singers were supposed to sing at the National Cathedral in Washington DC at this time last year and our trip got cancelled the night before we were supposed to leave because of COVID,” Neal said. “Our choir has felt our own sense of loss from that experience. The concert was really a way for us to memorialize all of the loss. From loss of life all the way to the loss of singing. And of course, it’s a beautiful piece of music.” 

Faure Requiem is a piece composed by a Frenchman, Gabriel Faure, and dates back to the late 1800’s. It is a famous piece of work that has been sung among many choirs. 

“Faure Requiem specifically is one of the great choral masterworks that we all know and love for choirs,” Neal said. 

The performance also featured a digital organ, which used the sounds of an organ in France, making the performance unique. 

“The performance went very, very well,” Neal said. “We were very lucky to have some wonderful accompanist with us. Steven Wooddell, who is our organ professor and music technology director here at Berry brought his digital organ to the recital hall. We were able to use a recreated organ, it was an electronic organ, using the sounds of an organ in France. With the digital organ, plus the performance of the strings and the other instrumentalists that joined us, it was just a really special event.” 

A group of faculty and students, including the provost, sit for the choral concert performed by the Berry Singers. Erika Becerra | Campus Carrier

This performance was a change of pace for Neal and the choir department. It was performed for a live audience, making this act even more special than usual.

“All last semester we recorded everything, we didn’t have an audience at all, we literally just sang to an empty hall,” Neal said. “Which is always difficult for any performer. We only had about a dozen people there, we kept it small for social distancing purposes, including the provost and the dean and several of our music faculty and a couple of friends of the department. It was just great to actually be able to sing for an audience. It was very special.” 

The recording of Faure Requiem will be released in the coming weeks. 

“Faure will be aired sometime first of April, we’re hoping to have it done by then,” Neal said. 

This is not the end for choral performances this semester. There is a spring concert featuring all choirs that will take place towards the end of April. 

“We are doing an end of the year spring concert with all the choirs on April 17,” Neal said. “That one we hope to have livestreamed. The final spring concert we do hope to have all the livestream technology worked out and have that performed live for an audience even though they may not be in our hall, they can actually watch it live online.” 

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