When the pandemic hit, artists around the globe were deeply affected. Choral singers and ensembles have been uniquely challenged as the very essence of our art—gathering in community, breathing together, communicating to audiences in close quarters—has been centered out as a health risk. But artists throughout history have responded to times of trauma and community devastation by creating, and this is what North Park chose to focus on for its fall choral concert.
Covid-19 has been isolating—from the initial shelter-at-home orders to virtual classes, we’ve all been separated. This is especially true for many people who already deal with the isolation of a physical and mental disability, the stigma surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation, who are persecuted for religious beliefs, or who face discrimination for their skin color and racial identity. We continue to witness how Covid-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color and the deep wounds of continuing racial injustice in our country.
The choral students at North Park have been exploring the theme of isolation. We’ve shared photos and personal stories of our responses to Covid-19. We met virtually with Dr. Rollo Dilworth who shared with us the role of the African American spiritual in teaching social justice. We’ve been learning about and singing the music of black composers such as Chicagoan Lena McLin.
While safety measures mean we can only sing in person in small groups for short periods of times behind the barriers of our masks and physically distanced, we have reached out to each other through our vulnerability. Many of the students have worked collaboratively to communicate their own thoughts about isolation through original compositions and spoken word. You’ll hear some of the student stories and others as part of this playlist.
Ultimately, we know we are not alone, even when it feels that way. As North Park professor Dr. Thomas Jefferson sets from Psalm 32 “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” May you find joy in the voices of these remarkable students and the stories that they tell.
Please watch and listen to the concert.