Downtown Voices Compline

Downtown Voices Is Back This Sunday at Compline by Candlelight

Trinity’s semi-professional choir, Downtown Voices, is back with its first in-person performance in almost two years.

Downtown Voices will present Compline by Candlelight in Trinity Church on Sunday, December 12, at 8pm ET. The ensemble’s last public concert took place in February 2020, a few weeks before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Nothing compares to an in-person live experience,” said Stephen Sands, the conductor of Downtown Voices. “Especially in terms of ensemble singing where you need to breath together, and be together, and sense everyone’s communal voice.”

Downtown Voices Rehearse for Compline by Candlelight
Downtown Voices choir members rehearse inside Trinity Church.​

Trinity’s weekly Compline by Candlelight service, based on the ancient rite of prayer that is part of the Daily Office of the Church, usually features improvised music from The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and had been a Sunday evening fixture for many years. Compline by Candlelight returned to in-person presentations on September 19 in Trinity Church. Before the pandemic, the service was held at St. Paul’s Chapel.

In-person rehearsals and performances of Downtown Voices had been suspended since March 2020, although choir members rehearsed and recorded on Zoom. Some of those online performances, along with archived recordings of the choir, have been shared on Trinity’s website and social media channels, often as part of Trinity’s Comfort at One series. 
To produce more performances, the singers recorded each of their parts at home, to be edited and mixed later. While certainly better than nothing, the recording process can be challenging for many singers. “They are part of the choir because they like being part of the collective voice, not necessarily because they like the recorded sound of their individual voices,” Sands explained.

Virtual Performance by Downtown Voices
A Downtown Voices virtual performance of the joyous Spotless Rose by Ola Gjeilo, directed by Stephen Sands and edited by Farrah Dupoux.

Although the musicians of Downtown Voices found a way to practice and connect with their audience remotely, members agree there is no substitution for the experience of singing together. 

“Downtown Voices is one of the most enriching activities in my life that I value very much,” said Celia Gavett, who has been with the choir for almost six years. “I am so grateful that Stephen and my other colleagues in the choir have come back and are willing to sing in person again.”

Weekly rehearsals for Downtown Voices resumed in September. For safety, choir members are required to wear masks during rehearsal and will mask up for Compline by Candlelight on Sunday.

“[Wearing a mask] doesn’t make it more difficult. Overall, it’s not so bad,” said Lucy Zhang, who joined Downtown Voices in September.

The special Compline by Candlelight service on December 12 will feature Arvo Pärt’s 7 Magnificat-Antiphonen, also known as the Greater Antiphons or O-Antiphons, used at Vespers on the last seven days of Advent in Christian traditions. Each of them begins with a respectful appeal to Christ: “O Wisdom,” “O the Key of David,” “O Morning Star,” etc. 

This is not the first time Pärt’s music has been sung at Trinity. In 2018, Downtown Voices presented Voices Over Tallinn at St. Paul’s Chapel, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Estonia’s independence and paying homage to some of the most influential Estonian composers, including Tormis and Pärt.

If you can’t attend Sunday’s Compline by Candlelight, a recording of the service will be available the following week via podcast. Downtown Voices plans to have another in-person performance in April, if public safety permits. For more information about planned in-person performances from all of Trinity’s ensembles, review the 2021–2022 season schedule