A recent article in the New York Times posed this question: “When will it be safe to sing together again?” The short answer is no one knows for sure, but it will likely be months before those of us who enjoy group singing can safely gather in person. Experts agree that neither masks nor shields can protect our fellow choristers from the aerosols we emit—some of them visible, most not. So we need to accept that choral singing may be the last artistic activity to come back from corona. While we wait, stages and sanctuaries around the globe, from the Metropolitan Opera to Temple Square, from school auditoriums to senior centers, are empty.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that many choirs are devising creative ways to fill the void. Many, including several in our area, are using a model—the virtual choir–first launched in 2009 by Eric Whitacre, a world-renowned choral conductor and composer. As described at http://ericwhitacre.com/ “The Virtual Choir is a global phenomenon, creating a user-generated choir that brings together singers from around the world and their love of music in a new way through the use of technology.”
Technology is the key. And while, like many of us, I am reluctant – even scared – to try new uses for the devices I now depend on to stay in touch with the world, I found it surprisingly easy to join the virtual choir. All it takes is two devices, one that plays a “clicktrack” and one that records a video. I used my smartphone to listen to the clicktrack (through an earpiece), and my laptop to record a video of myself singing along.
The recording that I made in my living room was then blended with 176 other voices for the first performance of the Sounds Good/Good Memories virtual choir. You can enjoy our rendition of “The Storm is Passing Over” here:
And for a humorous take on this new way of making music, take a look at “The Birth of the Virtual Choir,” a production of the St. Giles Festival Choir in England: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUdoCgnj9qA
As older adults wait for the pandemic storm to pass over, we need to find ways to engage our brains and feed our souls. Singing does that for me. One of my favorite songs Pete Seeger’s version of the old hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” The answer is, “I don’t have to!” Watch the Video
Forward Chicago wants to know how you are engaging your brain and feeding your soul as you shelter in place. Share your experiences and ideas with us via the “Contact Us” button on our website.