Loyola’s Music Program Takes to the Virtual Stage for ‘Missa Gaia’

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Loyola’s choirs might not be able to perform live and in-person due to COVID-19, but that’s not stopping them from singing. Loyola’s music program is compiling videos from its students to create a virtual choral performance of “Missa Gaia,” or Earth Mass. 

“Missa Gaia,” composed by Paul Winter, was originally a collaborative performance between the dance program and the choirs set to take place March 21. The piece draws on texts from St. Francis of Assisi and incorporates animal sounds into the traditional components of a Christian mass, such as the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. 

After Loyola moved its classes online to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts canceled all its upcoming events, including “Missa Gaia.”

Loyola’s Director of Choral and Vocal Activities Kirsten Hedegaard and her colleagues decided the celebration of nature would take another form — a virtual choir. She said it was important to continue the performance to keep her students engaged. 

“I think on the forefront of my mind was to give the students something musical and creative to do but also something that wasn’t overwhelming … knowing that everybody’s circumstances were changing drastically,” Hedegaard said.

The new format led to “experimenting,” according to Hedegaard, as this was a new way of conducting. The process began with her, Loyola senior Sam Mason and pianist Cody Michael Bradley recording the master tracks of the performance the last day the campus was open. 

Hedegaard then sent out the tracks to the students, who recorded themselves singing their respective parts. The students sent the videos back to Hedegaard who reviewed them and forwarded them to Mason, who’s editing the performance together.

“When you have a 70-member choir and all of them are sending you three videos a piece, it ends up being a bit tedious,” Mason, 26, said.

But for Mason, all the work is worth it to have a sense of closure on this senior year. He said this performance is acting as a “punctuation mark on the end of the semester,” easing the abrupt end to in-person classes.

It has also given him and his classmates something to work toward and look forward to.

“Now that there’s … this hope, this project I’ve gotten a lot of excitement from people, you know, just excited to be a part of something still and excited to keep going and that’s been really encouraging honestly,” Mason said.

He said it’s acting as an “antithesis” to the inherent fear and sadness with the current state of the world. 

Hedegaard said she misses the feeling of singing in the same room as all the performers, saying not being able to perform together is “one of the most difficult parts of this.” She said the situation may not be ideal, but it forces new explorations in music.

“Making music under these circumstances may not be as fulfilling as making live music with our colleagues,” Hedegaard said. “However, I think it’s a testament to the power and the malleability of music that we can still continue to be creative and make music and continue to learn about music under these circumstances.” 

“Missa Gaia” will be posted on the Department of Fine and Performing arts website and Facebook page once completed.

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