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Academy of the Holy Angels Vocal Ensemble Record Hymn Sending Message of Hope and Harmony

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Demarest NJ,  Several members of the Academy of the Holy Angels Vocal Ensemble are striking a chord for social justice, hope, and harmony with their rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

AHA Choral Director Lisa Marciano and her a cappella group had been practicing this hymn in preparation for the Academy’s spring concert. This event, like many others, was canceled when the campus was closed due to COVID-19 health concerns. 

Although the vocalists had not sung the piece together since early March, Marciano thought this would be a perfect time to record and present it to the public. She pointed out that “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” was used during the civil rights movement in the ’60, and a history of that period is presented in a documentary named for the hymn.

Marciano’s plans coalesced in late June, when she succeeded in gathering 14 singers at Saint John’s Church in Bergenfield. Everyone observed social distancing and wore masks the entire time, even as they performed the final version of the song.

“We rehearsed out on the lawn next to the rectory with the noise of the traffic drowning out our voices, but they worked hard,” the director said. “When we thought we were ready, we went into the church and they stood spread out on the altar.”

Participants included Soprano 1 singers Jackie Arbogast of Warwick, New York; Lauren Chin of Paramus (AHA ’20); Deanna Frassa of New Milford; Nora Jacobi of West New York; Caitlin Neville of Dumont; and Emma Yale of Westwood. Katherine Gazzini of Ridgewood (AHA ’20) sang Soprano 2. Alto 1 performers were Lizelle and Mariel Bacalod of Fort Lee; Gabriella Callaghan of Nanuet, New York; and Arielle Maravilla of Leonia. Julia Fernandez of Teaneck, Carol Laux of Westwood, and Adriana Santos of Ridgefield sang Alto 2.

“They were spectacular, and so willing to do this for the school. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. This made my day, my week – this is the power of music in us,” Marciano added.

Alto Julia Fernandez noted that the hymn repeats, “If we try, Lord, if we try.” She said these words “show justice is always possible if people come together to do what is right.” She continued, “We hope that this (video) can leave an impact on anyone who watches it, and can shed a sense of creative light on an issue that will hopefully be resolved one day…The AHA Vocal Ensemble hopes that the message can touch you the same way it touched us.”

“Will the Circle…” is a 1907 hymn by Ada R. Habershon (lyrics) and Charles H. Gabriel (music). Over time, it has been performed in many genres by artists including the Carter family and The Staple Singers. The AHA Vocal Ensemble presented the following lyrics:

 

Will the circle be unbroken by and by, Lord, by and by?

There’s a better home awaitin’ if we try Lord, if we try.

I was singing with my sisters, I was singing with my friends.

And we all can sing together, ’cause the circle never ends.

Oh will the circle be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by.

There’s a better home awaitin’ if we try, Lord, if we try.

I was born down in the valley where the sun refused to shine

But I’m climbing up to the highland, gonna make that mountain mine!

Oh will the circle be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by.

There’s a better home awaitin’ if we try Lord, if we try.

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