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"The sweet though far off hymn"

For many months, or perhaps still, we singers have been awaiting the opportunity to really sing again. And I mean live and in-person rather than a recording or livestream, in a beautiful, resonant space rather than our bedrooms, (or closets…) and perhaps even with other singers rather than alone with our headphones on.

While the former will continue to be our reality for quite some time, I feel so fortunate that I was able to safely sing with my friends and fellow choral scholars at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH. After being away in NYC for the past two years and relocating to the Seacoast amidst the pandemic, the stars aligned for me to be able to return to St. John’s, a community and Choir I so loved being a part of.

However brief it may have been, that short time of singing in the Church and in a quartet again filled me with joy and energy for the rest of the week. All precautions were taken to assure our comfort and safety: mask wearing in all non-recorded moments, ventilation, outdoor rehearsing, and sufficient distancing. Yet none of this detracted from the experience and it felt as "normal" as could be hoped for! We recorded several selections that day to be used for weekly virtual services through December.

I know, lament, but accept that it will be a while before we’re able to do this regularly, reunite full Choirs, or for me personally to feel it is safe enough to return to in-person voice lessons. But this experience filled me with a renewed excitement and sense of gratitude for the privilege it is to gather and sing together. Until then, I will gladly accept and look forward to whatever small and safe doses of music making are on the horizon.

“My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation

I hear the sweet though far off hymn

That hails a new creation:

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;

It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?”

Photos & Videos by: Ashley Wade

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