An enduring tradition at Boston College is the University Chorale's performance of its theme song, "Tollite Hostias” by Camille Saint-Saëns, as a parting gift to the senior class at Commencement. And this year, though the pandemic has precluded on-campus ceremonies, the spirit of that musical tradition continued.

On May 16, the group presented a virtual performance of the song, the culmination of a two-month effort involving more than 260 past and present Chorale members who joined together to make the “Tollite Project” a reality.

The participants made recordings of themselves singing the song, which were showcased in a collaborative video "to create a virtual Chorale experience,” according to the group’s president, Cassie Pearson ’20. The video was released on Facebook and Instagram.

“‘Tollite Hostias’” evokes deeply treasured memories for nearly anyone who has ever been a member of the University Chorale,” said conductor John Finney.

“The ‘Tollite Project’ has given us a remarkable opportunity: hundreds of alumni from past decades have joined their voices with the voices of current members of the Chorale to create a unique—and frankly, phenomenal—performance,” he added. “The fact that so many beloved singers have summoned the resiliency and creativity to make music ‘together, while staying apart’ has been immensely inspiring."

With the season cut short in March, Pearson said, “as a senior I was heartbroken to have to say goodbye to the Chorale when I did. As a result, with the minds of many Chorale alumni, current members, and our conductor, John Finney, the idea of a virtual ‘Tollite Project’ developed and the response was amazing.

“With everything that is happening right now it can be hard to stay positive,” she added. “I know this video, with over 260 people of different ages singing a song that means so much to them, will be a positive experience for many people.”

Rosanne Pellegrini | University Communications | May 2020