CHAMPAGNE – If you go to St. Matthew’s Catholic Church Christmas Eve Mass at 4 p.m. today, you’ll hear something that has been missing since the pandemic began last year – the Bell Choir.
Loretta Oakley, musical director and liturgy coordinator at Champaign Church – and the one who started her bell choir decades ago – has brought together nine of the current and past members of the bell choir to perform for the first of three. tonight’s masses.
She also rewrote some of the music to accommodate fewer ringers.
There was only one rehearsal on Wednesday night and Oakley said it went really well.
“The kids are experienced, they’re very responsible and dedicated – and they like it,” she said.
The last time the Bell Choir performed regularly at masses, it was a group of about 20 students in grades five to eight, Oakley said.
Tonight, the small group she’s assembled – to allow a safe distance in the event of a three-table pandemic – will include seventh-grade ringtones to students.
In addition to the usual gloves the bell ringers wear, they will also wear face masks, Oakley said.
They will perform along with Christmas carols sung by the congregation and also play solo music, including famous Ukrainian Bell Carol (“Carol of the Bells”), Oakley said.
Oakley has been involved in the St. Matthew’s Parish Music Program for almost 40 years and was a music teacher at the parish school for 20 of those years.
St. Matthew’s children’s and adult choirs have also not performed at masses since the pandemic began, Oakley said.
She said she was set to bring the adult choir back in July, when there weren’t as many cases of COVID-19 in the community, but then the delta variant surged to across the country.
The other two Masses of St. Matthew will be at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Masses will be broadcast on the church’s YouTube channel.
The 6 p.m. mass will have social distancing and additional COVID-19 safety precautions.