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You still have time to sing in Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir



I did it. With 28 days to spare I submitted my video for Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir, version 2. Although I had downloaded the music back in September, I kept procrastinating and the clock was ticking. Stuck at home with torn menisci in my right knee and waiting to see a surgeon, I finally had the time to get it done. My contribution is below.

When I signed up for the Virtual Choir nearly three months ago, I told you about it then. This is the second public casting for the Virtual Choir, the first being the beautiful "Lux Aurumque" by Whitacre that went viral on YouTube and now has had more than 1.5-million plays. I hadn't heard of it when I found it using Stumbleupon earlier this year. I watched it over and over, amazed that technology could facilitate something so beautiful.

But I also struggled with another feeling, one that made me wonder if the intimacy of choir singing would someday be lost in the technology. As a lifelong ensemble and solo singer I can tell you there are few things that feel as pure as making music with your voice. And when you do that standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others who share that vision; when you hear and feel their breath; when the overtones (notes that are heard but not sung) soar from the ensemble from the depths of perfect harmonies...there is nothing else like it. I wasn't sure I was ready to trade intimacy for the Internet.

The VC version 2 project launched in September and I watched the videos of Whitacre describing the project. I admired his vision and passion. Then it dawned on me that although I would be trading the personal experience of singing in this choir I was gaining a chance to sing with people from all over the world lead by an acclaimed composer and conductor. When again would I have that chance?

I made my recording using the iSight camera built into my MacBook Pro and used a Samson Go Mic for the audio. go_mic-open-white-web.jpgIt's a great little USB mic with fantastic audio quality.  I turned off all the fans and the air conditioner, picked out a spot with a nice background and taped the Tenor 1 part. The hardest part for me was trying to sing the part alone and not treat it as a solo recording. The part was demanding from a breath control perspective. When in a choir you would "stagger breath" with the other singers so as not to break musical phrases. But the other singers weren't in my living room! It was a mental thing I had to overcome. In the end one of the biggest challenges I had was convincing our snoring beagle to take her nap in the bedroom. It was either that or get her to sing the Alto part.

The one part that really surprised me was the virtual connection I made with Whitacre as he conducted me through the piece. When you record your part you watch Whitacre on YouTube (see conductor's track below) and sing to his cues so that all the parts will line up. I haven't met Whitacre, I hope to some day, and after making my recording I feel as if I sort of know him. He conducts with so much emotion and exuberance that the experience was much more intimate than I ever imagined.

If you're finding out about this for the first time now or if you've known about it and are on the fence, I encourage you to do it. The deadline for the project is Dec. 31. The piece for the project, Whitacre's "Sleep," is hauntingly beautiful with wonderful use of dissonance. I have no doubt another astonishing recording will be created this time too, by people who touched each other through a common purpose shared by WiFi and fiber optic cables even though they never physically touched each other at all.

[Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:45am]


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