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"How can I keep from singing?"

May 21, 2020


Peter Sykes is a university music professor, organist, church music director, and harpsichord instructor at Juilliard School of Music. Recently on Facebook, he shared some thoughts about the pandemic-related prohibition on singing, which is an integral part of the Liturgy and an essential part of worship in both "corporate" (group) and private expression.

"I've been asked to write something for our church newsletter about singing in church. Here it is...



On Singing Together


By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps -
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
- Psalm 137 / VIDEO

The world we live in - for now - is a foreign land indeed.


The pandemic has brought devastation and calamity on many fronts, and one casualty – for now - is singing together. It’s been well established that choir rehearsals and congregational singing are among the riskiest activities for infection; singers, even amateurs, are ‘super spreaders’ because of their athletic breathing and projection.


Simply put, as long as we must have social distancing we cannot have ensemble singing.


This is a tragedy for now – but it is "for now":


- Nothing keeps us from singing together in family circles.
- Nothing keeps us from singing along to recordings,
or on Sundays to the organ accompaniment on our livestreamed services.
- Nothing keeps us from singing when on our walks outside.


Singing will continue, and when we come together again there will be a joyful noise of gratitude heard all over the world as we blend our voices in a chorus of wonder, love and praise.


These words were never more true…


My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing? 


I love you all.

We will sing together again.


- Peter"

May we too remember that all this is just "for now". 


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