Choral Union, our FUMCFW parent choral ensemble, embarked on an ambitious musical project this past fall: preparing the Advent work, “The Snow Lay on the Ground” by Julian Wachner, for a very special Advent concert presentation. Their work began in mid-September and will be available for viewing starting Sunday, December 13 at 7:00 pm on fumcfw.org/live and on-demand following this premier on fumcfw.org/snow20.
Each Wednesday evening, during the regularly scheduled choir rehearsal times, Choral Union met with Robert Stovall. Instead of the choir meeting as a whole ensemble and, through the wonderful creation of zoom, the choir sections, i.e., Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass, met with the director and worked on their particular parts separately. This schedule of rehearsals ended in early November.
“What was particularly amazing to me,” Robert says, “was the process that allowed the choir sections to rehearse with great success.”
Robert elaborates on what made this process most important to the success of this project. “Through extra rehearsal time, the section leaders, along with the audio recording capabilities of Hans Grim, sang every part of every movement,” he explains. “When finished, Hans created files for each section of the choir, allowing the choir members to hear their part in the privacy of their own home.”
The choir members used these teaching recordings throughout the whole process. Once the choir finished their zoom section rehearsals, it was time to record the entire work.
Again, Robert adds, through the help of the communications team, recording sessions, both audio and video, took place in November. This included a number of separate steps to ensure both the safety of the singers and the quality of the recordings.
First, the orchestra was brought in. They, along with Peggy Graff at the organ, and under the direction of Robert Stovall, recorded the instrumental portion of the entire work.
This was followed by bringing in each section separately, in masks, and singing to the recorded orchestra recording.
Following this “creation” process, the real work of putting together a complete performance began. “The communications team put in an incredible amount of time,” Robert continues, “piecing all these elements together to create the finished project.”
The reason to present this Advent work this year, Robert says, was due to the glaring fact that Choral Union was not going to be able to assemble and rehearse as a choir during this pandemic. “As we have all heard countless times, singing in large groups is not recommended during the pandemic.
Therefore, the challenge was to be able to provide a work to the choir that did not require a great deal of intense rehearsal time.”
He adds that the selection of music, too, needed to be something that was comforting to those singing, and more importantly, to those who listen to the performance. Thus, this work is made up of predominantly unique arrangements of familiar Christmas carols. The instrumentation allows the choir to sing stylistically correct while enjoying familiar tunes for the season.
“It is my opinion, music is truly THE UNIVERSAL language,” Robert emphasizes. “Music helps ALL to cope with life’s struggles, joys, events, and hopes. Can you imagine the world without music?”
He comments that there is a tangible emptiness felt when our congregation cannot participate in music during church services. “It is very important to find ways to provide to our listeners a feeling of hope, peace, love, joy, and all other healing elements, through the gift of song, of music. The choir has done a magnificent job of singing within the restraints presented by the horrific pandemic. This music, especially during this time, hopefully will give all who listen, a feeling of it’s STILL CHRISTMAS!”
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Angels We Have Heard on High
The Snow Lay on the Ground
The First Nowell
Joy to the World
Organ — Peggy Graff
Harp — Laura Brandenburg
Trumpets — Adam Miller, Lacey Hays, Taylor White
Horn — Heather Suchodolski
Trombones — Steve Peterson, Louden Cunningham
Bass Trombone — Jared Lantzy
Tuba — Carl Kleinsteuber
Percussion — Jaime Esposito, Will Champion