Chapel Tower

Music in Concert

From the Director

“Through all the tumult and the strife,  
I hear that music ringing.  
It finds an echo in my soul,  
how can I keep from singing?”


How can we keep from singing? The American composer Robert Lowry’s famous nineteenth-century hymn is potent for these days, when a global pandemic and its related public health concerns have done exactly that—kept us from singing, or at least from engaging in the corporate, public music-making that gives so many of us life.

Yet: The song goes on. As Lowry reminds us, that “far-off hymn that hails a new creation” resounds through, beyond, and above our present lamentation. The song of faith accompanies our joys, gives voice to our sorrows, and offers an audible strain of hope until this time of suffering has passed.

At Duke Chapel, our musicians have worked diligently to keep the song of hope sounding from the Chapel and into the world. Livestreamed Sunday morning worship services have continued with musical offerings from the Chapel’s four organs, staff and student cantors and soloists, and socially distanced “virtual anthems” featuring the Chapel’s choirs. Our carillon recitals, given each weekday at 5:00 p.m., have moved online. Sounds of Faith video reflections have provided insight into sacred works previously performed at Duke Chapel. Rebroadcasts of Thursday evening Choral Vespers and Sunday afternoon Choral Evensong services have resumed following a summer hiatus. Our new Sacred on Saturday seminars explore notable pieces of sacred music in their historical and liturgical contexts. And, with this writing, I am pleased to announce a program of online sacred music concerts and recitals that will be broadcast from Duke Chapel beginning October 17.

Basic information for each program is listed below. You may wish to bookmark this webpage, as additional details for each event will be added as it nears. These details will also be provided on the Chapel’s website and social media platforms.

We hope that you will join us for some or all of these virtual concerts. Through these days of tumult and strife, may the music of faith continue to be a blessing for your soul.

Dr. Zebulon M. Highben 
Director of Chapel Music 

Music from Duke Chapel 2020–2021

This list is not exhaustive; additional programs may be added. Duke University and Duke Chapel reserve the right to make changes and, if necessary and prudent, cancel or postpone any of the following performances if proceeding will present an unacceptable risk based on then-current public health conditions.

Psalms in Dialogue 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

The Psalms give us a way to enter a dialogue, one that began thousands of years ago, among men and women of faith, speaking and listening to God. In this online presentation, Duke Chapel and Duke Chapel Music welcome visual artist Makoto Fujimura, Dr. Ellen Davis of Duke Divinity School, Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet, Andrew J. Nemr, and choristers from the Royal School of Church Music in America for an evening of creativity and conversation engaging Psalms 22, 23, and 24. Learn more. Register here.

Organ Recital: J. S. Bach’s Great Eighteen Organ Chorales

Christopher Jacobson, FRCO, Duke Chapel Organist

Sunday, November 8, 2020 | 4:00 p.m.

Duke Chapel Organist Christopher Jacobson, FRCO, presents a recital on the Chapel’s Flentrop organ. Prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig during his final decade (1740–1750), this collection of chorale preludes is an encyclopedia of large-scale works in various styles that Bach perfected throughout his career. Together with the Schübler Chorales, the Orgelbüchlein, and the third book of the Clavierübung, the Leipzig chorales represent the pinnacle of Bach’s sacred music for solo organ. Event listing here

Handel's Messiah: Part I

Sunday, December 6, 2020 | 4:00 p.m.

Now in its eighty-eighth year, the annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah at Duke Chapel is one of the oldest and most beloved musical traditions at Duke University. This year, we continue that tradition in a non-traditional fashion, blending live performances of arias and recitatives with virtual, sing-along choruses created from 2019’s Messiah concerts. The program will include all of Part I—the Christmas portion—plus the “Hallelujah” chorus. Event listing here.

More information about ticket access for online viewing will be announced soon.

Jazz Vespers for Advent

Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | 7:30 p.m.

The season of Advent is one of reflection and longing—reflection on the power of the incarnation, and longing for the end to sorrow and suffering that the incarnation portends. John Brown, vice provost for the arts at Duke University and director of the Duke Jazz Program, and members of his Little Big Band will join Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, in a special Jazz Vespers service focused on themes of the season. Event listing here.

Advent Lessons & Carols

Thursday, December 17, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

Choral anthems, carols, and hymns are hallmarks of the Advent-Christmas celebration at Duke Chapel. This virtual service of Advent Lessons & Carols features seasonal contributions by all of the Chapel’s choirs, with readings, prayers and liturgy led by Chapel staff and students. Event listing here.

Organ Recital: 20th-Century French Masters 

Christopher Jacobson, FRCO, Duke Chapel Organist

Sunday, February 21, 2021 | 4:00 p.m.

Duke Chapel Organist Christopher Jacobson, FRCO, presents a recital on the Chapel’s Aeolian organ, featuring the music of Marcel Dupré and his contemporaries, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Dupré’s death. Event listing here.

Organ Recital: J. S. Bach and His Legacy 

Dr. Robert Parkins, Duke University Organist

Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Robert Parkins, Duke University Organist, presents a recital on the Chapel’s Flentrop organ, featuring works of Johann Sebastian Bach and German Romantic composers who were influenced by him. The program will include works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and Reger. Event listing here.

Spring Oratorio: "Faith and Love and Hope Abide"

Sunday, April 11, 2021 | 4:00 p.m.

The spring oratorio concert is a long-standing tradition of Duke Chapel’s music program. Centered around the theme “Faith and Love and Hope Abide,” this year’s program features the Chapel Choir, the Vespers Ensemble, and the Evensong Singers in a series of virtual performances—including the world premiere of newly commissioned pieces—interspersed with poetry and commentary. Event listing here.