Taghkanic Chorale Overcomes Obstacles to Present Virtual Holiday Concert

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Taghkanic Chorale has been providing Westchester music lovers with high-quality chorale performances for the past 53 years.

With nearly all in-person concerts and performances, from local theater groups to concerts to Broadway shows, remaining on the shelf for the foreseeable future, the roughly 30-member Yorktown-based group desperately wanted to find a way to continue the tradition of their holiday show.

Ingenuity combined with expert use of technology and hours of editing by Music Director Jason Tramm and his son will allow Taghkanic Chorale to do just that. The group will present a virtual concert this weekend that is appropriately titled “Hope and Healing.”

“We were a little discouraged because it was looking pretty bleak, but then we started to realize as long as we didn’t get together physically that could be part of the concert,” said David Watson, a tenor and longtime chorale member.

Part of the concert, which is scheduled for this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., will consist of the full chorus. Each member received a guide track with Tramm conducting, Watson said, and the members each filmed themselves and recorded their parts on their iPhones. The singers then sent their recordings to Tramm, who along with his son, is putting all the parts together.

The other half of what will be about an hour-long program also required meticulous planning. About 15 of the chorale’s members rehearsed outside Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton-on-Hudson, the venue of most of its performances, throughout the fall, Watson said.

Then on Dec. 17, those singers split up into small ensemble groups to record in real time in the church with the windows open, proper social distancing and masks, he said. There was no audience in the pews.

For each song, it takes about 10 man hours of work to piece all the parts together and present the concert as though it was a type of Zoom call, Watson explained. Tramm is the conductor of chorale music at Seton Hall University who also has expertise in the technical aspects of piecing together taped performances while his son is a videographer.

Watson said shortly after the pandemic hit it seemed far-fetched that Taghkanic Chorale would present any type of performance in 2020.

“It seemed a little unlikely at the time back in March that we would be able to pull this off,” Watson said. “The impression we were getting was that chorale singing is almost the antithesis of controlling the spread of COVID because you’re breathing in really heavily, you’re expunging air, expelling air, you’re enunciating, you’re spitting all over each other inadvertently when you make an S or a P or a T.”

The program is designed to be an inspiring and uplifting experience with pieces from both classical and modern composers. It includes excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” “The Awakening” by Joseph Martin and “Earth Song by Frank Ticheli will also be performed along with a few recognizable and loved holiday songs.

There will be commentary between some of the selections about how the chorale was able to pull off the concert.

Given the disruption and despair for so many people this year, Watson hopes the concert will provide the chorale’s fans with some holiday season joy, a bit of normalcy and something to look forward to this Saturday evening.

“It was ingenuity, it was resourcefulness on the part of our maestro, our music director, just this indefatigable optimism,” Watson said. “He would not be deterred. He said ‘We’re going to make it through this.’”

The concert begins online this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Listeners should log onto https://youtu.be/BSJg0AudkFc. The recording will be available on YouTube until the end of December. The performance is free, although donations are encouraged to help support the nonprofit chorale’s work. Donations may be made by visiting https://www.taghkanicchorale.org/donations.

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