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The music-world-internet is blowing up right now with virtual ensemble projects – choirs, orchestras, combos, you name it! If you’re a conductor or musician of any kind, your Facebook feed has a new virtual choir project pop up every hour of every day. It’s cool to see all of the creative ways people are adapting to covid-times.

EVERY musician and their grandma is looking for a way to keep the music alive. We get it, we feel you, we are in the exact same position. In case you missed it, here’s our first virtual recording project, with my choir, Luna Vocal Ensemble.

If you are a conductor or teacher or musician looking to put together a virtual ensemble recording of your own, we’re going to break the process down for you. Here’s a handy step by step guide for how we made our virtual choir:

1) Create a conducting video. The very first step is to record a video of yourself conducting through the piece exactly how you would like for it to be sung. To help the ensemble stay together, I made the decision to conduct fairly strictly in-time, so there would be less variations in the singers’ interpretations of tempo changes. Obviously, if we were together in person, this would not be the case! You can use whatever video-capturing technology you have available. Andrew happens to have a DSLR camera, but this is not necessary – an iPhone camera will do just fine.

2) Record the voice parts. Step two is to record yourself playing or singing each individual voice part. This will provide the singers with something to sing along with as they record. I used the voice-memo app on my phone – it doesn’t need to be high tech!

3) Splice ‘em together. Here’s where the first round of editing comes in. Andrew took my conducting video and each of my voice part audio recordings, and spliced them together to create a recording guideline video for each part. Essentially, the singer could watch me conduct and could hear me singing their part at the same time. To do the editing, Andrew used LogicPro.

4) Ask the singers to record themselves. Each participating singer made two different recordings: one audio and one video. Most of them just used their iPhones! While watching the conducting video, each of them recorded themselves singing their voice part. It was important that they did so in a quiet room and while wearing headphones, to eliminate any background noise from the conducting video. Then, they each made a separate video of themselves singing along to their part. We asked them to make the video while standing in front of a neutral backdrop and while wearing blue, to help create some visual cohesion.

5) Edit, edit, edit (and more editing). Once we received all of the audio and video tracks, we started to put the choir together. Andrew used LogicPro to line up all of the voice parts, eliminate background noise like page turns, and to make sure all of the parts were balanced. I used Filmora to turn each individual singer’s video into the large grid that looks like a choir.

We are not by any means professional audio or video editors. If you already have these skills, the process may go a heck of a lot faster for you. There was definitely a learning curve, particularly for me, since I had never used Filmora before.

These sorts of projects are creative and fun and yes, a lot of work. If you have the time and the patience for post-production editing, we encourage you to GO for it! We found the end result and the pride that our singers took in being part of the project to be well worth the many hours of labour.

Don’t hesitate to connect with us with any questions about the process! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the Crescent Choirs mailing list so that you can get your copy of the Virtual EP we are creating with our choirs during quarantine times.

The number one thing I’m missing during these socially distant times is seeing my singers each week. As an extroverted-introvert (is that a thing?), the majority of my weekly social time is spent in rehearsals. It’s perfect. Plenty of human interaction while working together on an activity and (this is the key part) without having to fully socialize for hours straight. I get my dosage of human contact and energy from spending time with the most wonderful people, and then I get to go home to my quiet house. It’s great.  

This whole isolation thing has blown this routine to pieces. I miss my people. We all do.

Andrew and I have been working hard to come up with ways to keep our community of singers connected with one another. All of our Crescent Choirs ensembles are first and foremost a place for building community; our mission is to offer a choir home where everyone feels welcome and loved (in addition to excellent musical training!).  

For the last three weeks, we’ve been having Zoom rehearsals, which has been a combo of really fun and kind of weird. It’s been a great opportunity to spend time checking in with everyone and to sing 'together' as best we can. The other project we’ve embarked on is a Virtual Choir (sort of like this)! We piloted the project with Luna Vocal Ensemble and thankfully they were keen to be guinea pigs in our socially distant recording experiment. 

I’m SO excited to share it with you! We chose the song, May It Be, because the lyrics seemed really fitting for what we’re all experiencing at the moment:

May it be an evening star shines down upon you

May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true

You walk a lonely road, oh how far you are from home

Believe and you will find your way

A promise lives within you now

May it be the shadows call will fly away

May it be you journey on to light the day

When the night is overcome you may rise to find the sun

Believe and you will find your way

A promise lives within you now.

We hope that this might bring a little bit of sunshine to your day. If you like the recording, send it to a friend and make sure to subscribe to the Crescent Choirs mailing list so that you can receive an EP of all of the virtual recording projects we are currently working on!

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