On a sunny Wednesday morning, Mark Doerries, director of graduate studies and head of the graduate choral conducting program for Sacred Music at Notre Dame, sits masked in an empty choir rehearsal room of O’Neill Hall of Music and Sacred Music. He recalls the day in spring 2020 when the choral music fell silent.
“I think we all went through a grieving period,” he says of his guild, still smiling. “Not only was our vocation and career as choral musicians suspended due to the pandemic, but also it was deemed very dangerous — so millions of people who take part in creating music, creating art, socializing and having a spiritual connection with singing had to accept that choir as usual would be, for a time, unsafe.”
For graduate students studying sacred music at Notre Dame, conducting vocalists in preparation for a major recital is an academic requirement. This typically takes the form of a 32-person choir practicing indoors. Over the summer, the sacred music faculty weighed options for how to help students safely fulfill this requirement and stay on track toward degree completion.
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