JUNE 2020
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

AHA Vocalists Record Hymn Sending Message of Hope & Harmony

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.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

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