Crossing the Pandemic Divide to Make Music Together

Imagine conducting a choir you never see whose performers are singing by themselves in their living rooms and bedrooms. Then imagine putting all these parts together to create a choral performance—all within a computer.

What the pandemic has made impossible—our ability to sing together—technology has made possible. Thanks to a creative piece of app technology and the sophisticated capabilities of today’s video and audio editing software, SCH Upper School singers will be able to enjoy a choral experience while observing all the rules of social distancing. 

Choir Forward with The Crossing and Donald Nally


Working with one of the area’s premier conductors, Donald Nally (pictured above), and his grammy-winning choral group, The Crossing, SCH Director of Arts & New Media Ellen Fishman has created a model for how to provide a true choral learning experience, even when the singers can’t be in the same room singing. 

In October, Nally and his choral group came to SCH and over the course of an afternoon, were recorded by an audio engineer and videographer. The chorus came in groups of four representing the parts of a choir—soprano, also, tenor, and base.  Each group was recorded separately as they followed a video of Nally conducting the first group. This was to ensure that every group was following the exact same tempo, phrasing, and dynamics. At the end of the day the audio engineer laid the 24 tracks one over the other to create a virtual chorus inside his computer. 

In the next stage the students will do their parts. Using a special-purpose app designed by SCH trustee and parent Dr. Youngmoo Kim, they will record themselves singing on their phones following the same video of maestro Nally. In the finished recording, only the image and voice of the student will be captured. With this unique technology literally at their fingertips, they will be able to record their parts anytime anywhere.

Once the students have recorded their parts, Fishman’s plan is to assemble the individual student recordings into a single multitrack video. In addition to the SCH students, a choral group from Northeast High School will also be participating in the project. The jazz bands from the two schools will be providing the background to the music, which was composed by Jay Fluellen, director of the choir at Northeast High. 

While substantive technology know-how is essential to realizing a complex venture like this one, Fishman says the ultimate success of this project must also be attributed to the creative energy and dedication of its many partners. “There were a number of hurdles to be overcome because of COVID-19,” says Fishman, including cancellation of the original recording studio space, sickness, and finding room within The Crossing’s busy schedule, “but one thing is really clear—what made this project possible was that everyone was committed to creating this unique opportunity for students so that they could enjoy the experience of making music together.”

 

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