CONDUCTOR OF THE RIC CONCERT CHORUS TERESA COFFMAN DISCUSSES
HOW THIS VIDEO WAS CREATED
When it became obvious in late March that the RIC Concert Chorus needed to create something to help them express themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, I asked them if they would be interested in performing a virtual choir of the composition "When I Think of You." Overwhelmingly, they wanted to give it a try. One of our technically savvy students – Jack Zornado – volunteered to put the video together as audio/video engineer and producer. I then contacted the composer and publisher of the song and received permission from both to proceed.
Our wonderful pianist Michelle Beaton and I met and kept our social distance to create a pianist/conductor video. That video was then sent individually to the soprano, alto, tenor and bass section leaders who watched/listened to it on one device and recorded themselves singing their parts on another device (usually a cell phone).
Their individual a cappella parts were then sent to Jack and me. Jack layered their parts on top of the piano/conductor video and the quartet was made available to the rest of the RIC Concert Chorus. Each chorister then did the same: they watched/listened to the quartet on one device and recorded themselves a cappella on another and sent their audio/videos to Jack and me. Each individual a cappella audio/video was then layered into a computer application to produce the "virtual choir."
This six-minute video took each singer hours to do – all said, each singer recorded their part well over 10 times to try to find one they felt they could submit. I spent many hours listening and offering suggestions to Jack such as, "Can you unify the 't's at 0:36?" or "Can you bring up alto X a bit more?" And Jack spent countless hours putting the entire video together. It absolutely could not have been done without him.
Not every chorister is in the video. Every chorister was encouraged to participate, but some elected not to do so. They may not have had the two needed devices, they may have tried and simply felt they couldn't submit an adequate video, they may have been in an emotionally fragile place and simply couldn't do it. Whatever the reason, the singers who are absent are just as present to me and to the ensemble as those you see and hear.
I would not have done this if it weren't for the pandemic, and I may never do it again. Our best estimate is that this six-minute video required between 100 and 120 cumulative hours. Normally, we would have had about 30 hours of face-to-face rehearsal time singing all together for an hour-and-a-half live concert. So the amount of time is prohibitive for this type of endeavor.
Nothing beats live music-making.
Though this performance is imperfect, it is a representation of beautiful people who love to make beautiful music together. I love the imperfections. I love seeing them in their homes, working hard to make this happen. Their heartfelt solos come together to create the ensemble we all love so much.
I am also proud of our dance and musical theatre students for creating "virtual" performances. We are a committed department, and our students strive to express themselves through videos when they cannot be together.