UWL concert choir performs with full roster for the first time since COVID-19 pandemic


UWL concert choir. Photo taken by Alex Perry.

Jessica Fitzgerald, Arts & Entertainment Reporter

On Oct. 21, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse concert choir had their first performance of the semester in their fall concert with the UWL treble chorus entitled: “Day is a Breaking in my Soul.” With both a full choir and audience, the choir performed various selections including pieces like Jake Runestad’s “Let My Love Be Heard,” Claudio Monteverdi’s “Si Ch’io Vorrei Morire,” Moses Hogan’s arrangement of “The Battle of Jericho,” and more.

When asked about her favorite part of the UWL concert choir’s performance, former concert choir member Ava Laukant said, “They have such a quality sound, and they have such a quality director. Dr. Hathaway does such a good job of just bringing so many different styles of music together into one. No matter if you only like one or two songs, you’ll always remember it.”

Having experienced choir through the pandemic, Laukant said she was excited to see a full choir on stage again. She said, “Seeing how full the stage was made my heart so happy because we haven’t had that big of a choir in so long, and it made me thrilled to see everybody interested. But then also just hearing how the choir filled the hall made my heart so happy. It made me so happy to hear that many people invested and wanting to be in choir. It makes the music nerds happy!”

This was the first performance by UWL’s concert choir with a full choir since before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. Once UWL classes were brought back on campus and in person, enrollment numbers for ensembles were down, and the COVID-19-sanctioned conditions of the choir made it challenging to recruit singers.

Starting fall of 2020, the UWL concert choir had only about 20 members, and they practiced in Annett Recital Hall instead of the choir room. This allowed singers to be spaced out by the auditorium chairs and avoid contact with respiratory particles from the other singers. Special masks were purchased for the singers that had wiring built in to create space for their mouths to move, allowing the singers to sing together again. Some choir members said wearing masks and being spread out made it hard for the choir to hear each other, which made singing as a unified group challenging.

During the pandemic, the choir’s rehearsals were different and the group was not able to perform live. Instead, recording specialists came to UWL and made a video compiling the music that they prepared which was later made accessible to families and community members through an online live stream.

During the 2021-2022 school year, the choir was able to perform live again. While numbers were steadily growing, the choir was still small, with around 30 members enrolled in concert choir in 2021. Now, after performing their first performance of the 2022 fall semester, the singers say they are excited to have a full group again. This is the first semester that the UWL concert choir has had a full roster since spring 2020. With a 40-member roster, this semester’s concert choir gets to enjoy a full sound and the ability to listen and hear each other both in rehearsal and on stage.

Dr. Christopher Hathaway is the director of choral studies at UWL, and he is the director of the UWL concert choir. He directed the choir all throughout the pandemic. He created online asynchronous music assignments, held Zoom rehearsals, and taught a masked choir how to listen to each other while standing several auditorium seats apart. Now, he was able to bring a 40-member choir back to the stage.

When asked about his favorite part of preparing for this concert, Dr. Hathaway said, “Honestly, you know, not that we’re necessarily post-COVID-19, but this idea that we’re kind of coming back from it and were able to have a community in the choir, and seeing a full choir again and a lot of new people and being able to make music with some new and old people. But also especially the upperclassmen who have been throughout the whole COVID-19 experience with me and to finally see that they stuck it out and finally get that musical moment that we’ve all kind of been waiting for.”

Various family and community members came together to fill Annett Recital Hall and to listen to the performance. Susan Amann, mother of UWL senior and concert choir member Kirsten Amann, attended the show and said, “It’s a great musical opportunity. Wonderful talent and it’s right here – local!” John Amann, Kirsten’s father, said, “I would say you’ve gotta come. You’re missing out if you don’t come.”

Future UWL concert choir events this semester include a performance at the New Music Festival on Nov. 2, and a holiday concert on Dec. 10. You can find updates on the UWL concert choir on Instagram @uwlacrossechoir and on the UW-La Crosse Music Facebook page.