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    • Schroth directs Concert Choir at 2021’s Spring Concert.

    • Smith conducts the Orchestra at 2021’s Spring Concert.

A Winter Revival: Choir and Orchestra Concert Returns to the Hill

Teddy Witt ’24 Campus Correspondent
On Sunday, December 12, Hopkins’ musical ensembles hosted the Music of Winter Concert for the first time since 2019, in Hopkins’ own Walter Camp Athletic Center.
The performance marked Hopkins’ first indoor concert since the onset of the pandemic, making the event a celebratory one. Director of Choral Music Erika Schroth said, “Since we haven't had an Indoor concert in two years, we are thrilled to host the concert on campus, in the AC!” Schroth said an “amazing” spring concert was held last year outdoors which was “chilly, windy, but full of strong performances and heart-felt music making.” However, she admitted that “it [would] be nice to be indoors together,” and gave the student performers “all the credit for sticking with their training and team spirit to make this winter's concert happen.”

Although an indoor concert was possible this year, that didn’t mean the performance wasn’t affected by pandemic restrictions. Student performers came to terms with “increased spacing between performers, the masks, and the bell covers,” said Arts Department Chair and Director of Instrumental Music Robert Smith. Smith noted that these restrictions complicated the planning process for the concert: “While we've been fortunate with Covid at Hopkins, the reality is that we've never given a concert under these same circumstances before and with so many extra considerations like air flow, social distancing, masks, etc, this adds layers of planning that we've never had to do before.”

Smith also noted that the Concert Choir and Orchestra were forced to change venue to Hopkins’Athletic Center because Battell Chapel, the site of the winter concert in previous years, is unavailable. The Yale Chaplain’s Office, which administers the Chapel, warns on its official website that “our spaces have temporarily been closed” due to Covid-19. Smith acknowledged that the Chapel would be missed but also expressed gratitude to be able to perform on campus, saying, “we are truly grateful to be able to use our great facilities at Hopkins as, without the gym, we would be unable to hold a concert this winter. However, there is obviously something special about the architecture and seasonal decor at Battell that elevates the concert experience for everyone.” Daniela Delgado ’25, a member of Concert Choir, was disappointed at the change of setting, but maintained that the Choir would work just as hard for this concert. “Because it’s my first year at Hopkins, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that in the past the choir had performed in Battell Chapel. If you can imagine that, then you must also imagine how disappointed I was when the choir learned that [it] was no longer available. Although it’s an opportunity we can no longer take part in for the meantime, the group continues to work hard for future performances.”

While some students were disappointed with the changed location, they were glad to be able to perform live and in-person this year. Elliana Welby ’24, an alto in the Concert Choir, gave insight into how the class ran in the height of the pandemic: “My freshman year we had to perform through recordings. It was horrible in my opinion, because having to individually record without the support of the rest of the choir's voices made me struggle so much.” Mira Krichavsky ’24, a second violinist in the Orchestra, added that last year, “It was definitely strange not being able to have any way to assess our performance of the pieces, or have the positive reinforcement of an audience.”

The concert is the culmination of the performers’ work so far this semester—both the Orchestra and the Choir have been rehearsing their pieces since September. Smith noted that this amount of time is necessary for an orchestra, “as it often takes many weeks to bring all students up to speed on tempo, rhythm, intonation, style, phrasing, articulation, and dynamics.” In Concert Choir, Welby mentioned that she felt preparation isn’t especially stressful due to the “well paced progression” of rehearsals, and the frequency at which they rehearse. Krichavsky echoed that sentiment and said, “Each day in class, we practice our repertoire for the coming concert, whether that be in two months or two weeks... but [Orchestra is] a chill time in the morning where I don’t have to be so hyper-focused and take notes.” Instrumental Music teacher Erik Elligers, who directed the Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, and 8th Grade Instrumental Music Ensemble, said that he and his students both enjoyed the rehearsal process. “We have had a great time learning and rehearsing music for this performance as this will be my first Winter Concert here at Hopkins. The students have all been working very hard to prepare their pieces and I have admired their work ethic and love of music.”

Schroth acknowledged that some songs at the concert were harder than others. She remarked that songs were divided into "safeties, targets, and reaches," referencing a system for college applications in which options would be sorted into three categories based on the likelihood of achieving them. Choir singers also felt that some pieces were at different difficulty levels—Welby stated that “The Ground” was the most nerve wracking to perform because of the “tempo and timing of [its] notes.” Delgado thought that “Papa Loko” was the song they were the most nervous to sing for similar reasons, saying “It’s a great piece, but I’m most nervous to perform it because of how upbeat and fast it is compared to the others.”

Unlike in some past winters, the concert wasn’t designed around any specific theme. Schroth said that, as in all years, “The goal [of each concert] is to help students grow artistically and creatively.” She stated, “We try to sing music both old and new, from composers around the world, that helps to tell stories that we think will resonate on a musical and lyrical level,” bringing “broad musical experiences” to Hopkins audiences. Smith added, “To be honest, I've never enjoyed thematic concerts. The pleasure in exploring music is just that - having one piece lead you to another and wondering where the journey will take you next!”

Students were truly passionate about performing as a group for an audience. Delgado explained, “Although it has not been too long since the year began, my experience in Hopkins Choir has been amazing. You get to bond with others while sharing the beauty of each other’s voices. It’s also amazing how you have the power to make an audience feel something... It definitely sounds cliche, but there really is something magical about being able to hear everyone’s voices come together.”
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