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In February of 2020, Shir Joy presented what would be its last live, in-person concert for the foreseeable future due to the Covid-19 pandemic.?The chorus’ Spring concert was cancelled, but Shir Joy director Nan Gibbons used archival recordings from old concerts as well as recordings of other musical groups to create virtual “sing-along” rehearsals at home via Zoom. The chorus was determined to do at least one concert in 2021.?
As the winter of 2020 became spring with no end to the pandemic in sight, Gibbons brainstormed with other choral directors around the country looking for innovative ways to produce a group sound when singers couldn’t be in the same room. Four chorus members made voice recordings in four distinct choral parts. Members learned their parts at home, taught each other to make their own individual video recordings and then sent them to Gibbons.? Using sometimes-cooperative software, Nan spent countless hours editing, blending, and mixing to create virtual choir pieces.?“Making your own solo recording with all its imperfections and then sending it out on the internet for others to hear took a lot of guts,” said Rothman.?Laura Logan, a longtime Shir Joy member, added, “One of the challenges of singing in a virtual choir is that you can’t hear each other. We lose our opportunity to blend our sound with each other.” The end result seemed like magic: a series of beautifully blended pieces the chorus could be proud of that were used for the chorus’ Feb. 21 concert.?
The singers really missed the experience of hearing each other’s voices. Gibbons and chorus member Warren Huber investigated more and discovered Parking Lot Chorus technology, a pandemic-born technique that allowed members to sing into a wireless microphone connected to a mixer while listening to each other through their car radios. After a test rehearsal in the summer, the chorus began parking lot rehearsals weekly on Sunday evenings in the parking lot at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough last fall.Although darkness prevented members from seeing each other, they could hear each other. “The first time we tested this equipment was a very emotional experience for all of us.,” Gibbons said. “Most importantly, it gave us a way to sing together.”
She directed in white gloves and car lights helped illuminate her hands. Warren ran the sound equipment and recorded the sessions so Nan could edit them and use them as a basis for future videos. The chorus’ pianist, Anne O’Brien, played keyboard wrapped in a coat, hat, and fingerless gloves. When the weather was too windy, snowy, or rainy, the group switched to Zoom rehearsals, where the chorus focused on learning new pieces.?
On ? Feb. 14, 2021, Shir Joy livestreamed its first virtual concert on Zoom, with a combination of virtual chorus pieces, live recorded selections from the group’s parking lot chorus sessions, and a few pieces from previous concerts—all laced together with live introductions and commentary. More than 180 people attended the concert on Zoom and the video was distributed to Central Massachusetts senior and assisted living facilities and cable stations so it could be viewed by thousands of people from the safety of their own home.?@mr12calvin
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