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The Virtual Choir: How We Did It

March 23, 2010 at 11:54 pm UTC

In the 48 hours since we posted the Lux Aurumque Virtual Choir video has seen an extraordinary number of new visitors. (Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest and linked here, especially and Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish). I thought I would take this opportunity to welcome everyone, and give a brief explanation as to how the Virtual Choir came to be.

Last year a friend emailed me a link to this video, the lovely Britlin Losee singing the soprano part to Sleep, an a cappella choral work I wrote in 2000:

I kind of freaked out, because it occurred to me that if 100 people all recorded their respective parts (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass) we could line them all up and create a virtual choir. So I asked everyone to buy the same recording of Sleep from iTunes, a beautiful performance by the superb British choir Polyphony. Singers from around the world posted their individual parts, simply singing along to the recorded piece. Scott Haines volunteered to cut it together. Here’s how it came out:

I was thrilled (it actually sounded like music!), and I wanted to see if we could push the concept to the next level. So this time, I made my own conductor track, filming it in complete silence, hearing the music only in my head. Then I watched the video and played in the piano accompaniment part to my conductor track:

Then I offered the sheet music as a free download. As singers began posting their individual tracks, I called for ‘auditions’ for the soprano solo. Melody Meyers from Tennessee posted my favorite entry:

My goal with this ‘chapter’ of the Virtual Choir was to see if we could not just sing our parts separately and cut them together; I wanted to see if we could actually make music. There is a lot of rubato in my conducting (slowing down, speeding up) and some very specific dynamic gestures, and the singers responded beautifully. Here’s the final product:

When I saw the finished video for the first time I actually teared up. The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me. And it must be said that a lot of the credit for its beauty should go to Scottie Haines, who spent untold hours editing and polishing the video. (BTW, Scottie and I have never met only met once in the ‘real world’, unlike 99% of the Virtual Choir, whom I’ve never ‘met’).

Lastly, I’m hoping that this is just the beginning. My ultimate goal is to write an original piece for the Virtual Choir and have it receive its world premiere in cyber-space, hundreds (maybe thousands) of people singing alone, together.

Woo hoo!


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