Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020


Following the Goldberg trail from Gould to Lang Lang; Measha Brueggergosman and Edwin Huizinga on face to face collaboration in strange times; diggings into dance as FFDN keeps live alive; "Classical unicorn?" - Luke Welch reflects on life as a Black classical pianist; Debashis Sinha's adventures in sound art; choral lessons from Skagit Valley; and the 21st annual WholeNote Blue Pages (part 1 of 3) in print and online. Here now. And, yes, still in print, with distribution starting Thursday October 1.

expect the same end result;

! Try not to be afraid to

admit if something doesn’t

work and to try something

different or new.

The Wonderful World of

Digital Concerts

Virtual Choirs have been

common for a while now.

They are fun ways to bring

together singers from all

over the world together into

one project. Eric Whitacre’s

Virtual Choir project has been

the largest and most significant

contribution by far to

this type of choral presentation.

Smaller choirs have long

recorded themselves and used

these videos on YouTube,

livestreams and more. But

there have never been choral ensembles that exist solely and purely as

virtual ensembles, never singing in person.

YouTube mashups and virtual and remote recordings are a common

part of the ecosystem of pop music, especially in the myriad collabs.

Using common tech, it’s not hard to make excellent, top-quality

videos and recordings of people singing together who are not physically

together or even singing at the same time.

For choirs that are turning to electronic versions of what they do,

ensemble singing stops being the focus. If 40 choristers are recording

their parts separately with the same notes on sheet music, do they

still count as an ensemble? Is the conductor now the leader of an

ensemble, shaping the sound and musicality, or is it now the video

and sound editor ensuring the cues are all lined up and adjusting

the balance of the various recordings? We’ll have to see, as virtual

rehearsals and digital concerts become more common.

I also have some key takeaways for virtual ensembles:

! Mark the music diligently before giving it to choristers and ensure

everyone has access to the same music, with updates;

! Breath marks. Breath marks. Breath marks. There’s no sneaking

allowed in digital recordings or quiet breaths. If a breath is in the

wrong place on a video, it’s obvious. A sound editor has one choice:

mute your recording or drastically reduce its sound over that section;

! It can take hours of work and dozens of takes for choristers to find

a copy worth submitting. It’s a lot of extra work to do;

! Maintain standards of musical excellence but recognize the layers

of obscurity that overlap the end product – low-quality tech, noisy

apartment neighbours, uncertainty and fear, lack of rehearsal, and

psychological stressors can contribute to a very difficult experience.

Continental drift is reversed in Sing Gently. Eric Whitacre’s

Virtual Choir 6 includes 17,572 singers in 129 countries.

Virtual Presentations

October 10 - The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (of which I am part) is

presenting one of the earliest and most significant virtual performances

with Kannamma: A Concert of Thanksgiving. As part of its

work on anti-racism, the choir has brought in guest curator Suba

Sankaran to program the concert alongside new associate conductor,

Simon Rivard. Guests include paid members of the Toronto Symphony

and Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Members of the small, elite, professional, paid core of the

choir were recorded in advance in a socially distant live session

at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Their voices make up the core of the

sound and the video. To these professional singers will be added the

remainder of the amateur, volunteer, unpaid members of the choir

who are recording their sections in isolation at home. The virtual choir

will be mixed by video and editing professionals that will make a final

cut premiering at the virtual concert.

Follow Brian on Twitter @bjchang. Send info/media/

tips to choralscene@thewholenote.com.

“No digital rehearsal can replace the magic

of in-person ensemble music-making, so

avoid disappointment by accepting that you

can’t expect the same end result.”

Brian Chang


Performance listings

(live, livestreamed, hybrid, … free),

plus workshops and more.

The bottom line? Breath marks!

The beat goes on at thewholenote.com

thewholenote.com October 2020 | 27

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