Choir performs for commencement ceremony


Donovan WilsonReporter

As COVID-19 kept students apart for graduation, the choir still found a way to come together, but this time, virtually.

“It was like singing in a vacuum,” said Terese Gemme, who led the choir.

Back in March, COVID-19 caused all students to go off campus and switch to an online medium. In addition to classes being online, so were all events including 2020’s commencement ceremony.

To reinforce a connection between the students and their campus during this nontraditional ceremony, the student and alumni choir, led by Gemme, the choir conductor and director of the honors college, serenaded their fellow students.

They sang an uplifting combination of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound Of Music, by Rodgers & Hammerstein.

This uplifting ceremony presentation was not without its challenges, seeing as it was the first digital recording of the choir. There were many challenges that the conductor and the choir alike had to face in pulling this off.

This was the choirs first time performing to a pre-recorded orchestration. The choir members had to balance being on time with the track and adjusting their cameras.

Gemme said the choir is a “real community undertaking,” and that connection is missing with the aspect of singing alone for the digital recording.

The choir normally all sing together when they perform but while singing alone there was no ability to bounce off each other.

This choir recording was originally recorded in July for an alumni concert that was a benefit to healthcare workers. The university then decided to include it in the 2020 commencement ceremony.

The students were given no warning of the digital choir presentation being added into the ceremony. However, they said they were happy to see the inclusion as it was an amazing exposure for Southern’s choir.

“We have a great ability of blending” said Candance Naudé, a singer in the alumni choir and performer of the national anthem.

The national anthem was also recorded for an event other than commencement.

Naudé said it was “exciting” as there would have been no concert around this time if not for this commencement performance.

English and political science major, Krista Jones, a member of the choir, said has no connection to music at Southern besides the choir. However, she has been in different choirs her whole life and her mom is a music teacher.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” said Jones, “it requires a lot of empathy.”

She said she was very happy to participate in this digital choir performance due to the unifying nature of music paired with the “current state of the world.”

Jones said she was also unaware of the inclusion in commencement at first but was very happy it was because it represented the “hope people needed.”

Gemme said, the songs performed were selected to “hold meaning to people.”

Photo credit: Jessica Guerrucci

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