JHS A Cappella Adapts To COVID-19 Restrictions

Even though COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Jamestown High School’s A Cappella Choir and Madrigal Singers from performing their seasonal concert schedule this year, new director Lauren Scharf, is determined to find a way to celebrate the season with hopes that by next year, the annual Vespers can continue.

“It is a great disappointment that the A Cappella Choir will be unable to perform their annual Vespers services this December at First Lutheran Church, however, myself and the students felt very strongly that the A Cappella Vespers is especially needed this year, so we came up with some new ways to spread joy to our local community,” Scharf said. The A Cappella Choir will be releasing a recorded performance of some of their Vespers songs, including the traditional processional Kyrie Eleison, which will be available at www.jpsny.org and on JPS’ Facebook and Twitter pages beginning Dec. 21.

Scharf, along with former directors Norman Lydell and Brian Bogey, will also host two radio programs with Dennis Webster on Media One that will highlight music compiled from past A Cappella Vespers. The shows will give insight into the history of Vespers, and have the directors tell stories about the beloved, annual tradition. The shows will air on Sunday, Dec. 13, and Sunday, Dec. 20, at 4 p.m. on WJTN AM 1240.

“We are so thankful to Media One for airing these shows featuring the music of the A Cappella Vespers,” said Ms. Scharf. “Dennis Webster is such an avid supporter of all JPS music programs and we are so appreciative of Media One’s willingness to share A Cappella Vespers’ story with the community in this challenging year.”

Choral music education has enjoyed a long, rich tradition at Jamestown High School. Ebba H. Goranson, who directed the choir from 1924 until her passing in 1957, founded the A Cappella Choir 96 years ago. Donald B. Bube served as choral director from 1958-1981. Brian A. Bogey moved into the director’s position in 1982. In 2003, Norman Lydell took the reins as director until his retirement in 2020.

Each December, the 80-voice JHS A Cappella performs Vespers, two sacred music concerts at First Lutheran Church, featuring excerpts from major choral works and seasonal songs and carols for their community. JHS A Cappella Choir features smaller ensembles, including the Madrigal Singers, Men of Tomorrow and Ladies of Today. The A Cappella Choir has performed nationally, internationally, and throughout our local area. Other annual performances include school assembly programs, run-out concerts, as well as the Spring Chorus Concert in May.

“As I look at an album from the 1963 A Cappella Choir that is displayed in my office, I am regularly reminded of the depth of history that this program has, as well as its connection to the community and these particular performances,” said JPS Superintendent Kevin Whitaker. “I have faith in the resilience of this community and in this remarkable group to overcome this COVID-related setback and continue confidently into the future making beautiful music for our community.”

The A Cappella Choir is known as the “Choir of Cathedrals.” Performances include the National Shrine Basilica in Washington, D.C; New York City’s famed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church; St. Michael’s R.C. Cathedral in Toronto, Canada; St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna, (home of the Vienna Boys Choir); the Basilica in Innsbrook; the Cathedral in Salzburg; England’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral & Salisbury Cathedral; Saint Anne de Beaupre and Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec City, Canada; New York City’s Saint John the Divine Cathedral, the famous Park Avenue United Methodist Church and the historic Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church; Boston’s Old North Church; Washington D.C.’s National Presbyterian Church; Chicago’s Queen of All Saints Basilica and Fourth Presbyterian Church; the Baltimore Basilica and the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church.

The choir has participated in master classes at Harvard University, North Park University, and the University of Maryland. The choir has performed at professional sporting events and historical sites, including the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, the Holocaust Museum, the Kennedy Center, Arlington National Cemetery, and Fort McHenry, (birthplace of our national anthem). In December of 2009, the Madrigal Singers performed with recording artist Kenny Rogers. In February 2014, the A Cappella Choir performed at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In December of 2015, the A Cappella performed with acclaimed performing artist Jim Brickman. In the spring of 2016, the A Cappella toured Washington, D.C. and in 2018, the choir toured Baltimore, Maryland. The A Cappella choir most recently performed at Disney World in the Candlelight Processional in December of 2019. Last year, over 200 alumni voices joined with the choir in a performance of traditional A Cappella repertoire in celebration of the choir’s 95th Anniversary.


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