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The University Singers ring in spring with pandemic anthems

The University Singers welcome warmer weather with an anthem-filled concert

March 24, 2021 — 



It’s no secret that this past year has been challenging, if not downright difficult. From navigating remote learning, to learning to catch up with friends and family from a distance of six feet, this year has been…a LOT. For the University Singers, the Desautels Faculty of Music’s large, tight-knit choral ensemble, COVID-19 has sidelined their renowned, packed-house concerts. As members of the ensemble ventured forward in an uncertain year, completing coursework they found themselves being drawn to anthemic, spirit-lifting repertoire, which they will share in an online concert this Saturday!


Performers find their voices and their anthems during the pandemic


Spring Sing: Finding Your Anthem, will be held Saturday, March 27, 2021, at 7:00pm. The concert, organized by the University Singers Council, will raise funds in support of the University Singers European Tour, a beloved tradition that takes place every other summer and sees Desautels choral students sharing their music in concerts across Europe. Last year’s trip was, of course, cancelled due to the worldwide pandemic, but we remain optimistic that our singers will once again be traveling the globe!

Like the fall 2020 POPs Concert, the Spring Sing will feature students performing remotely, either on their own or in small groups that align with public health restrictions and guidelines. The fall concert addition attracted 200 attendees, and raised over $3000 towards the future University Singers trip – whenever it occurs!

When it came to determining a theme for the Spring Sing, the University Singers Council knew immediately what they wanted to showcase.

“Coming to the end of this school year we realized that a common thread between many students in the faculty is how we use music to empower us, even in difficult times,” says Hannah Johnson, one of the event organizers.

“The songs showcased in this concert are the ones that we have felt uplift us in each of our individual lives, which is something that we want to share with our community,” she says.

“What’s great about this concert is that choristers can choose whatever songs they want, allowing for lots of creative freedom, which a lot of people ran with!” adds Johnson.

15 acts have officially signed on for the concert, thus far, and more students are expected to submit their acts before Saturday.


A sneak peak

Some of this weekend’s performers have shared a sneak peak at what they will be sharing at the concert, as well as the inspirations behind the performances.


“I chose to sing ‘Time After Time.’ by Cyndi Lauper,” says vocal performance major Camryn Dewar.

“I find that in a time of global crisis, it is important for us to create ways to feel nostalgia and look back at times before the pandemic,” she says of her reasons for selecting the 80s hit.

“Over the past year, I’ve found myself doing a lot of reminiscing, watching movies I used to love, listening to music from my childhood, et cetera,” Dewar explains.

“Cyndi Lauper is nostalgic for me because she reminds me of when I was a child, watching her music videos on MTV with my mom. I also love the message of the song, which reiterates how important it is to turn to loved ones for support, and which we’ve all found ourselves doing time and time again over the past year,” she says.


Meanwhile, recent Desautels graduate Julia Davis and first-year piano student Alex Klassen turned to the current hits in choosing their anthem.

“Alex and I will be performing ‘evermore’ by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver,” says Davis of their performance piece, which is from Swift’s recently released album of the same name.

“We chose this song as our ‘pandemic anthem’ because it really just sums it all up perfectly. It is a good reminder that the pain and loneliness we have all felt during this time will not last forever!” she says.


For performer Kristian Cahatol, the inspiration for her performance piece, ‘Jet Lag,’ by Simple Plan featuring Marie-Mai, has appropriately pandemic origins – a Zoom call.

“This used to be one of my favourite songs growing up, but I had forgotten it existed for the longest time,” the first-year voice student says.

“Around December 2020 I was having a Zoom party with some friends and we were feeling a little sad since we haven’t been able to see each other in person as much as we used to. To
help with missing each other, we all decided to create a collaborative playlist to share our favourite songs,” Cahatol says.

“The first song one of my friends put on the playlist was ‘Jet Lag’. It brought back so many fun memories, and, honestly, it still slapped as hard as I remembered. It’s been stuck in my head
every day since, and has also been a staple for car rides and home-alone concerts. It now also reminds me of my good friend!” she adds.


Pandemic lessons to carry forward

While this year has not been the year that Desautels students expected or wanted, they have proven repeatedly just how tough they are, and just how much grit they have. When it comes to takeaways, these resilient and optimistic performers have learned some incredible lessons about themselves this past year.

“As someone who loves to keep busy, the pandemic has definitely taught me how to slow down and not take anything for granted. I am learning to take things as they come, because right now there is really no other choice!” says Julia Davis.

“This year has really made me think about how I value myself, on a day to day basis, as a body, as an identity, and as a person in this world. It took a global pandemic for me to
realize how unkind I can be to myself!” laughs Kristian Cahatol.

“Since [the beginning of the pandemic], I have been fortunate enough to have access to counseling, and a very loving community. Though I’m still on this journey – and always will be – I’m growing more and more into a person who can ask for help, and embrace myself a little more,” Cahatol adds.

Some of the performers are even setting goals for themselves for the summer!

“This summer, I will be attending the six-week Emerging Artist Program at Opera Nuova,” says Camryn Dewar of be able to fulfill a long-time dream in the middle of a pandemic.

“They have a very strict set of COVID protocols, so it is exciting that I will finally be able to safely make music with others again. I have been waiting to attend this program for years now, and I can’t wait!” she says.

Meanwhile, fourth-year Desautels student and Spring Sing performer Kyle Briscoe will expand on his musical talents while training for new goals.

“I’m hoping to work towards running a marathon and writing more music,” he says.

In spite of everything, the pandemic has inspired creativity and ingenuity this year, and students are looking forward to the day when they can perform together again.

“In light of all the changes that we have had to adjust to this year, we have been shown many opportunities that weren’t feasible in past years,” says Hannah Johnson.

“We are excited to see how students will bring the skills they’ve learned into the next year. We have such diverse performers in our choirs and that creativity is what’s going to make concerts like this possible in the future!” says Johnson.

Desautels students are unstoppable, and we are incredibly proud of everything they have accomplished this year!

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