Associate Professor of Music Stephen Sieck conducts Viking Chorlae in a November 2019 concert.
Photo by Sebastian Evans
The COVID-19 pandemic has required many music ensembles to make new adjustments to their rehearsal and performance practices this term. The pandemic has presented new challenges for making music together and connecting with others. However, the choral department at Lawrence is working to keep the music and connection alive.
At Lawrence, one of these ensembles is the Viking Chorale, directed by Stephen Sieck, co-director of choral studies and associate professor of music. Any Lawrentian interested in singing is welcome to join. This term, it is comprised of 43 Lawrence students.
Sieck said that over the summer, he and Philip Swan, co-director of choral studies and associate professor of music, were discussing the needs of students for Fall Term and how Lawrence could provide the best community experience under the given circumstances. Sieck believes that choir is a community experience, but because of the pandemic, things could not be done in a normal way. Sieck said that Swan emphasized that it would be beneficial to reach outward. He thought that the Lawrence choral community should work with others who were isolated in the Appleton community.
As a result, the Viking Chorale has been working with middle school students from all across Appleton to create a virtual choral concert. Jaclyn Kottman, choir director at Einstein Middle School, is heading the middle school involvement. Altogether, approximately 950 middle schoolers from all over Appleton will be participating.
According to Sieck, the students will be recording their own parts to Moira Smiley’s “Stand in That River.” This song was chosen because it uses metaphors to speak about feeling alone. Sieck explained how singing provides an outlet for feelings of grief and worry when these feelings are difficult to put in words.
“We sing when we don’t have words for what we’re feeling,” Sieck said. “We sing when we have so much grief or worry that the only way to express it is with our voices.”
Sieck stated that the hardest part about this being a virtual project has been mixing the individual parts from each singer together and making it sound like a choir. However, he also stated that he enjoyed being able to hear each individual singer, something that is much harder to do in in-person choir.
The switch to virtual choir has created new roles for students as well as the directors. Sophomore Maggie Walker is a member of Viking Chorale and is the middle school liaison for this project. Walker took on this position in an effort to make more personal connections with the middle schoolers involved in the project. Walker wants to be a middle school teacher after college, so this was the perfect opportunity to gain experience working with the age group.
“The goal is to make these connections and spread joy through music,” Walker explained.