Virtually Choral

While recently searching online for some choral project ideas for next season, I was struck by the extent to which choral music–traditionally a group activity involving people being together in real time–has moved into the virtual world. Sure, choirs have been using the internet for years for communication, promotion, and networking, but now video is increasingly being used to connect choirs, singers, composers, and audiences without any kind of human contact.

For choral work, YouTube has transitioned from a fun showcase into an important tool. Even though I knew she had recorded it and asked the choir to do so, I was amazed to see a recording of a performance of a work by Catherine Aks by my ensemble, Melodia Women’s Choir, posted by the composer within days of the premiere! For composers who are self-published, regularly posting performances to YouTube is a powerful tool in getting a work heard and performed.

As a choral singer, it’s helpful to review recordings of different performances to get some familiarity with the work and the composer as part of the concert preparation process. Finding video clips to pass along to the rest of the choir as a learning tool, particularly of new or rarely performed work, is proving to be easier than locating audio recordings. In the past, I’ve spent hours online looking for a choir that has performed a piece that is not commercially recorded, tracking down contact info, finding out if there is a concert recording, and then waiting for the CD–a lengthy and inconvenient process.

The one drawback with the numerous video choral recordings posted on YouTube is that the quality is quite often mediocre. Live recordings, often taken in low-light situations with handheld video cameras or Flip cameras with minimal sound recording capabilities, only provide a sampling of the work and not a quality audio or video experience. San Francisco-based Volti has found an interesting way of posting work on YouTube that doesn’t include video, but features a high quality audio recording with a still photo of the choir, a blurb about the piece, the text, and a listing of the upcoming performance. Mark Winges’s Where Everything is Music is featured on this one:

Another recent development involving video is Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir. The YouTube video of Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 1 project, a recording of his Lux Aurumque by 185 singers who each recorded a video of themselves singing their part using their own computer, has attracted more than 2.8 million views so far. Virtual Choir 2 features a nicely produced video connecting 2,052 singers performing Sleep in a star-filled galaxy of interconnected singers, and his Virtual Choir 3 project is currently underway. To participate, singers go to the website, select a part (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass), and watch their computer screen as the music is played and sections of the score are visible on the screen. Whitacre even conducts! When the singer is ready, he or she records and submits their performance. Each singer needs headphones, a webcam, and preferably an external mic. The deadline for Virtual Choir 3 submissions is January 31, 2012.

The use of video has endless possibilities as the choral and virtual worlds collide and expand.

Choral composers–how do you present your choral work on video?

One thought on “Virtually Choral

  1. Martin

    Hi
    I’m looking for a cheap video recorder, or webcam with mic for use with a macbook, for recording a choir I sing in. The practice room is small and the camera would need a field of view of at least 100 degrees.
    Cheers
    Martin

    Reply

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