Bridge beyond strife: Amazing pandemic video melds 500 voices from 9 HCPS high schools

Henrico, Va., May 26, 2021 — A soaring new video version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” combines the voices of more than 500 Henrico County Public Schools students in an ambitious artistic response to racial strife and national division. The video creates a seamless rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel classic made from hundreds of individual home recordings from choral students who attend each of the school division’s nine high schools.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" performed by 500+ HCPS students

In an introduction to the video, Lauren Relaford, a Glen Allen High School senior who will attend Duke University in the fall, explains the project’s aim of providing a measure of “refuge, connection and peace.” The video then pans across hundreds of students singing in harmony from bedrooms, kitchens, backyards and other virtual learning sites they used during the pandemic.

Choral students at each HCPS high school, working with their instructors, recorded themselves performing the 1970 song, and uploaded it to the cloud. Some students chose not to show their faces and others elected to submit only audio recordings.

“This project shows our kids leading the way and teaching the adults what unity is about,” said Sherri Matthews, choral director at Glen Allen High School, who helped organize the project. “We felt like that was an important thing. While the project was supposed to be finished in the fall, it’s just as relevant today as it was then.”

The project got its start last summer, during talks by choral directors from each of HCPS’ high schools, along with Chris Moseley, HCPS’ specialist for music education. What the instructors expected to take several months, finally came to fruition in May. Universal Music Publishing Group provided HCPS with the rights to use the song for the project for $1.

Connections in the musical world helped provide a bridge to completing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Glen Allen’s Matthews, previously at Mills Godwin High School, had led Godwin students in international college-level competitions of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Those connections led to Tennessee media production firm 5:01 Studios. The company, led by two brothers active in the competitions, volunteered to take on the ambitious task of combining the more-than-500 different song tracks.

The project was paid for entirely with donations. Funds from Harmony Foundation International, the Henrico Education Foundation and individual donors paid for an engineer to complete the project’s video component.