CUC Music Ensembles Adjust to COVID-19 Restrictions in 2021


Sam Scheltens

The music ensembles at Concordia University Chicago jumped through multiple hoops in order to safely resume their activities this year. After all, Wind Symphony musicians play by blowing air through an instrument with enough force that people can hear the sound — in the middle of a pandemic caused by a respiratory disease. 

Added to that, only a fraction of the ensembles’ students returned to campus, rehearsal spaces changed locations, safe rehearsal protocols were altered frequently, and concert and tour itineraries needed updating.

“Rehearsals were totally different compared to last year,” said Charles Brown, D.M.A., conductor of Kapelle and Männerchor. “Not everyone came back for in-person learning. Yet, we were blessed to have a balanced choir for both Kapelle and Männerchor.”

More than one year ago, on March 16, 2020, Concordia University Chicago transitioned to an e-learning environment. This change significantly impacted CUC’s numerous music programs, which rely on physical proximity with the other musicians in the ensembles to perform. After the Spring term of 2020, however, CUC allowed performers and athletes to return to campus to resume their activities with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. 

Kapelle just completed their Spring Tour over spring break, and performed in locations around Altenburg, Des Peres, and Jackson, Missouri as well as Centralia, Illinois. 

To prepare for their respective tours, both Kapelle and Wind Symphony took extensive measures to ensure the safety of all their students. This included a 10-foot rule for social distancing and requiring every member of the ensemble to wear some form of face-covering, or modified masks designed to fit an instrument through small openings in the side or front. In addition to larger spaces to rehearse in, ensembles must take breaks after performing for 30 minutes and allow the air to clear in the spaces. 

“We certainly could not fit in the band room so the Chapel became the ‘band room’ and we have rehearsed there all year,” said Richard Fischer, D.M.A., conductor of the Wind Symphony. “Very difficult to listen to being so far apart and the students are so far from me. This became a real challenge for sure. But as time went on we learned to adapt.”

Wind Symphony has also just finished their Spring Tour in Wisconsin, where they performed at 3 Lutheran high schools. 

“It’s harder to keep with everybody, harder to hear the music everybody else is playing, so it’s harder to play together,” said Will Bales, a junior in Wind Symphony. 

Despite the challenges, the ensembles kept a positive outlook and tried to focus on the bright side of things. 

“Our message [has stayed the same]. We go, and we sing; not to bring glory to ourselves, but to Christ,” said Charlie McLain, a junior in Kapelle. 

“While these are challenges, the alternative is NOT to be together, and the students have made it clear how important it is to be together,” said Brown. 

“With all the challenges that we have faced, we are extremely happy, very thankful that we have been able to rehearse and perform and next week go on a tour and share our musical gifts with others because that is why we do what we do. We want to be a blessing to others,” said Fischer. 

The Wind Symphony will perform on Friday, March 19 at 8:00 p.m for their annual home concert.  A livestream will be available from the CUC website. 

Kapelle will also perform on Sunday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. for their annual home concert, which will be streamed on the CUC website. 

Männerchor will sing in daily chapel on Tuesday, March 23 at 11:00 a.m. for a Lenten hymn sing. 

All music ensembles will perform in the Spring Music Festival on May 2. Check your Concordia email for more information.