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Department of Music returns to the rhythm of onstage performances

December 3, 2021

Photo courtesy of Ben King
Music to our ears: The Bowdoin College Concert Band performed at an outdoor concert during Family Weekend. Live performances will continue this Saturday, with the Bowdoin Chamber Choir taking the stage in Studzinski Recital Hall.

The Fall 2021 semester marks the return of many musical programs at Bowdoin that have been on hold since the beginning of the pandemic, and, despite new restrictions and uncertainty, the Department of Music has still looked forward to the opportunity to perform for the Bowdoin community once again. The Bowdoin Chamber Choir will perform this Saturday at 3 p.m. in Kanbar Auditorium in Studzinski Recital Hall.

“This whole semester has been an exercise in flexibility and agility, emotionally and logistically,” Jeff Christmas, director of the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and lecturer in music, said. “We started rehearsing outside, singing in masks ….We were going to [hold the upcoming Chamber Choir concert] in the Chapel, but there’s no ventilation in the Chapel, so we had to move to Studzinski Recital Hall.”

Christmas believes that, even with additional precautions, the ongoing pandemic still poses a serious complication to holding performances, especially with a large choir.

“We’ll be rapid testing right before [the concert]—if anybody tests positive, the concert is canceled,” Christmas said. “It feels like such a gift to make music for an audience in-person after two years, and, at the same time, it’s a little nerve-racking to know that we could do all this work all semester and then find out an hour before the show that we don’t get to share it.”

Despite his apprehension, Christmas is still glad that the choir has been able to rehearse at all.

“We’re not just gearing toward a performance; it’s about the learning and the work we do in rehearsal, week after week,” Christmas said.  “But, it would still be really nice to be able to share it and to perform—it’s part of why a lot of us do it.”

Christmas argues that, in many ways, the return of live performances to Bowdoin’s campus signals the restoration of a very important part of American culture: the return of performance art to the physical stage.

“It’s been really hard for some of us to not be able to see and listen to and attend that live, human, creative experience,” Christmas said. “I’m trying to stay focused on the fact that we’ve been able to get together and make music and hopefully we’ll be able to do it publicly in a room with some humans this Saturday.”

Christmas also thinks that this semester has served as a “warm-up round” for the Department of Music to return to the routine of holding performances after a year and a half without them on campus. And, as the Department of Music prepares for the end of the semester and looks forward to the next semester—which promises an in-person musical—Christmas is optimistic about the future of post-pandemic music-making at Bowdoin.

“This semester, there was so much energy around recovery and remembering anew how we do this together,” Christmas said. “Next semester, there’s so much we’ve learned that I think we’ll be able to take with us and spend more time making music and less time trying to get our sea legs.”

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