Sunday, May 16, 2021
Celebrating 83 undergraduate and graduate students
The Westminster Choir College Class of 2021 enjoyed perfect weather for its Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 14. It seemed only fitting as this class survived what has probably been the most challenging 15 months in Westminster’s history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions on singing and in-person teaching.
While the pandemic’s restrictions necessitated many changes in the traditional Westminster commencement program, which was limited to one hour, the ceremony was all the more meaningful as the 83 graduating students sang together for the first time in March 2020. Since the Princeton University Chapel is closed to outside events, the ceremony was held in an enormous tent that could accommodate 500 people on Rider University’s campus in Lawrenceville.
Music — and especially choral music — is an integral part of Westminster’s Commencement. To enable the graduating students to sing together while meeting safety requirements, the students were seated 15-feet from each other and wore masks. The guests, who were also masked and not invited to sing, were separated by six feet.
The prelude consisted of recorded music by some of Westminster’s ensembles and Westminster Opera Theatre. The graduating students entered the ceremony to Warren Martin’s Processional, performed by a brass quintet from the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The brass quintet also accompanied the graduating class as they sang Steven Pilkington’s hymn Music is the Noblest Art led by Dr. Pilkington. Professor Joel Phillips delivered the Charge to the Graduating Classes. Since the rest of the student body was unable to participate in singing Warren Martin’s Anthem of Dedication with the graduating class, this iconic moment in the ceremony was offered as a responsive reading led by faculty member and alumnus Vinroy D. Brown, Jr. ’15. Listening to them respond “Here am I Lord, send me,” to the question “Whom shall we send,” one couldn’t help but reflect on how powerfully this class has endured and triumphed over the past year’s challenges.
The ceremony concluded with Professor James Jordan conducting the Class of 2021 in singing Peter Lutkin’s benediction The Lord Bless You and Keep You before they exited to a recording of the third movement of Yiran Zhao’s Mass in F. Minor.
The commencement ceremony for Westminster’s Class of 2020 will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, in the Princeton University Chapel in conjunction with the annual performances of An Evening of Readings and Carols. This plan is based on the assumption that we are able to return to large in-person gatherings and that Princeton University has resumed permitting external events to occur in the Chapel by that point in time.