Singers from St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls, perform “If You Love Me” via YouTube.  Screenshot.
Singers from St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls, perform “If You Love Me” via YouTube. Screenshot.

Quarantine precautions may be preventing vocalists and instrumentalists from worshiping through music in church, but their ingenuity and determination are finding methods to bridge the pandemic gap.

Choirs based in schools and parishes have been utilizing technology to blend separate performances into a harmonious, nuanced whole. With the aid of tablets, smartphones and computers, musicians can record a musical track and share it with vocalists who sing in harmony with it. Others edit numerous recordings to align the tracks, combine the video, and post a polished, joyful, even reverential showcase of their musical talents for YouTube or other platforms.

In St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls, music minister Michael Zorner and pastor Father Eugene Vavrick crafted its choir performance of “If You Love Me” by Joel Raney into what the parish dubs a “musical bouquet.”

The voices of 26 choir members, each in their own home, were “knitted together to offer a gift of peace, hope and encouragement not only for the parish family, but for all within hearing distance,” said Joe Garipoli, St. Anselm parishioner whose wife and daughter sing together in the choir.

Reminding faithful of the words of Christ found in the Book of John 14:15, 27, the song reminds the listeners “My peace I give you … I will comfort you in times of trouble … If you love me, keep my commands.”

“I thought it was miraculous and beautiful that they were able to find a way to participate in this project,” Garipoli said. “The choir is an important part of our liturgical experience, and they’re reverent people; we’re really blessed in that way.”

Similarly, Cindy Wald, vocal music teacher in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, for 27 years, admitted the limitations of online classes makes it difficult for choirs to sing together.

“I decided to create an assignment where the students would funnel our thoughts about the pandemic,” she explained. “It was a tough time: [When school went online] we were three days away from leaving for a Boston [musical] competition and about one-and-a-half weeks away from putting on the school play,” she said.

She enlisted the help of her son, Erich Wald, a Barnegat middle school music teacher, who laid the music foundation for an original song, “When It’s Over,” compiling students’ reflections and comments on their physical separation. Then eight members of the Donovan Catholic Jazz Choir recorded their parts and sent the clips to him.

In a 4:22 video posted on YouTube and the school’s website, choristers imagine the “things that should have happened” during the pandemic, the teens do not “hold onto memories that are broken,” but instead share their hopes and plans for when the separation is over.

“The whole project took us about two months,” Cindy Wald said. “The response has been amazing … Every time I listen to it, I smile.”

The project is being featured in the diocesan multimedia project “COVID-19: Stories of Hope.”

Overall, the musical offerings serve to not only to showcase musicianship, but primarily to comfort and draw the listener into meditation on Christ and reflection on our human experience apart.

“I would guess that few have escaped the stress of social isolation and personal dislocation caused by the global pandemic,” Garipoli reflected. “Many are sick at heart at the continuing struggles here at home to make meaningful headway at disassembling the institutions of racism and social inequality and injustice … [The music is] a command to live the Gospel as a sure path to help in solving our seemingly intractable problems and find peace."