Performing in a pandemic: Augustana University’s virtual Christmas Vespers

Education

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Augustana University’s traditional Christmas Vespers is anything but traditional this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You know it’s Christmastime at Augustana University when you hear the sounds of the Christmas Vespers.

Courtesy: Augustana University

“When you hit that second half of the semester, you knew, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready for Vespers. This is going to be the big thing that the school does,'” Senior Viola player Nathan Johnson said.

Johnson has been in it all 4 years he’s attended.

“There’s this feeling of inclusion where you feel like you are a part of a bigger thing,” Johnson said.

In this story, you heard snippits of the first-ever virtual concert conducted by the new School of Music.

But what you haven’t heard yet is how they put this production together. They’re not actually singing or playing through their face masks.

Courtesy: Augustana University

“It was unlike, really, anything I’ve ever done,” Johnson said.

Each section of the orchestra was put into separate rooms. They each recorded their own parts using reference musical tracks to time them accordingly.

“You record these all in little bits and then you layer it all on a laptop in post-production,” Director and Dean of the School of Music Peter Folliard said.

Folliard says they accomplished this using the school’s own recording studio. He compares the process to putting together a Super Bowl Halftime Show.

“The whole thing is an elaborate lip-synch, but that’s how we were able to do this and keep everyone safe and still create a beautiful product,” Folliard said.

Courtesy: Augustana University

“Even in this pandemic where we had to sit six feet apart, we had to wear masks, we weren’t necessarily able to always meet as a full group, we still brought that season of Vespers to the community,” Johnson said.

And what sounds like a historic turn for this year’s Christmas Vespers.

The production airs this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on YouTube. To see more showtimes you can visit Augustana University’s website.

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