Virtual choir Hockessin

While houses of worship can now hold in-person services, restricted at 30 percent capacity, many have continued online, virtual services to keep the faithful fulfilled.

Among them, Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin, which even found a way to get the choir involved. Under guidance issued by the state for churches, synagogues, and mosques, choirs should not be used. Instead, religious services must use a single singer or a socially distanced duo.

"Typically, respiratory viruses are spread by coughing and sneezing--we know that--but we're also learning more about this virus being spread through speaking, especially loud speaking and even singing," noted Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, who stressed wearing a mask and staying socially distant.

Inspired by composer Eric Whitacre, the church's music director, Jordan Irazabal started the virtual choir, which makes their musical debut Sunday. 

"I chose a hymn that would pretty straight-forward rhythmically and that everyone would know pretty well," he told WDEL.

Production-wise, he hopped on Zoom with each choir member, who wore headphones and listened to his pre-recorded piano track and sing into their computer or tablet. He took all the recorded Zoom sessions, trimmed them, and layered all the tracks to make a musical masterpiece.

"There are some little mistakes in there, it's not perfect--actually I think there's a cat meowing," he laughs, "in one of the parts where the choir takes  a breath, but it's kind of a beautiful sentiment because it's organic; it's real, and it's an expression of what we're going through right now. People just want to get back to their normal stuff, and of course, singing is a great outlet for a lot of people. So in that aspect the organic, and real, and natural aspect, it was a beautiful experience."

Irazabal said about 150 people log-on for virtual services on Facebook each week compared to about 100-120 worshipers for in-person services.

"It's clear that people miss being in church., but they also like having a way to worship--when they can--if they can't make it at 8 a.m., they can do it at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., or whenever they want."