In Morse Chorale, a Morse Summer Music Academy ensemble and part of YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative, which is made possible by an endowment from the Yale Class of 1957, we rehearse in a circle so that each singer can see every other singer in the room. Sometimes that circle is spacious, soaked in the sunlight that streams through the windows of the Yale Glee Club room in Hendrie Hall. Sometimes that circle is more of a clump, impossibly squeezed into a practice room at 320 Temple St., or in a stairwell, or at the back of a school bus. Other times, that circle is open at the front to include an audience.
Now, with Morse Summer Music Academy necessarily becoming MorseOnline, our circle is a virtual one. We click through Zoom screens to see one another’s faces, pets, and reinvented names, laughing constantly at the joke-filled chat window, missing one another, and making art.
Since Morse Chorale’s inception in 2015, I’ve strived as its conductor to build a non-hierarchical ensemble that upholds the creative agency of each singer. Whether in grade 4 or 12, I want students to bring their most authentic selves and sounds to the choir, and to know that they are loved and valued for who they are, and not just how they sing. I am rarely in front of the group when we perform; rather, our music-making, which happens throughout the academic year, is driven by breath, eye contact, and collective artistic decisions, both planned and spontaneous.
Recently graduated high-school senior Marnielle Charles, who has been in Morse Chorale for "as long as [she] can remember," told me that entering rehearsal is “like entering a family reunion.” Like a family, our communal identity celebrates the individuality of each member. Marnielle and our rising senior class—Elijah, Daniella, Destiny, James, Lizamishel, NicDaniel, Sofia, and Vanessa—have, for years, embodied and strengthened this celebration, both with their own unique gifts and their eagerness to welcome and affirm new members. When they graduate, they will leave behind a choir that has been shaped not only by their brilliant artistry, but by their friendship.
While we all miss the chaotic thrill of weekly performances, this summer has been one of artistic resilience. Most mornings, we brainstorm new ways to use the digital medium not just to combine our voices remotely, but to showcase Morse Chorale’s non-choral talents. Through this process of virtual creation, MorseOnline has enabled us to share more of ourselves than ever before. We’ve been moved by Zayla’s poetry and by Veronette’s amazing covers. We know that Fiona is a ballerina, that Soleil is a songwriter, that D.J., James, and Karolina are all runners, that Daniella is a visual artist, and that Hattie’s wit is superlative. This list is endless and grows every day.
The singers in Morse Chorale share their voices and selves because, as Marnielle says, “they trust the people in their community to uplift them.” With that trust—whether on stage or on screen—there is no limit to what we can create.
Soloist Marnielle Charles and the Morse Chorale, led by Director Stephanie Tubiolo, perform Ben Bram's arrangement (inspired by an arrangement by Mervyn Warren) of Charles Gabriel and Civilla D. Martin's His Eye is on the Sparrow. Video edited by Stephanie Tubiolo.
Choral conductor Stephanie Tubiolo ’14BA ’16MM has been the director of Morse Chorale since 2015 and a teaching artist in YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative since 2011. She was the inaugural Morse Postgraduate Fellow in 2016-2017.
MorseOnline is a program of YSM's Music in Schools Initiative, which is made possible by an endowment from the Yale College Class of 1957. Learn more about MorseOnline here and the Music in Schools Initiative here.