My Virtual Choir 3.0 Experience

Last year, a friend introduced me to the music of Grammy winning composer Eric Whitacre. Within hearing the first two notes of "Sleep", the hair on my arms stood up, as if to say, "This is really something!"
When the announcement was made about Virtual Choir 3.0, I eagerly signed up. Little did I know how eye-opening and how dramatic, the experience would be.
"Water Night" is a haunting piece. Sometimes, I get poetry, but just sometimes. With "Water Night", certain phrases called out to me: "The secret kingdom of the water opens, flowing from the centre of the night," was by far my favourite line, followed by "And if you close your eyes, a river, a silent and beautiful current fills you from within."
I'll say this straight up, "Water Night" is by far the most technically challenging choral piece I've sung. Strong breath support is required to make it through those long phrases. I didn't have it when I began but I have it now.
However, "Silence and solitude, two little animals moon-led, drink in your eyes, drink in those waters," proved to be my nemesis. Bars 27- 28 soon became highlighted, circled and covered up in rainbow colours:

My Water Night Score. How did you guess that I'm a visual learner? Photo by R-M Arca.

It was a hard fight, but my ear training improved to the point that I nailed that interval on the final take.

One month of drilling came down to four days/nights of recording. Four frustrating days and nights of tweaking and re-recording (usually done in the wee hours of the night, after teaching):

Night 1 (January 27 and 28): recorded in piano studio. Discovery: it was too wide of an area. Eight-plus takes coughed up one mediocre track. After experiencing uploading issues to the site, I gave up just before sunrise and sent a call for help to Tony Piper at Virtual Choir HQ.

 Day #2 (January 28): I put a box around the mic to limit what it picked up. All was good until someone walked on the area above my studio within the mic's recording range (at least I knew the mic was good).

Then, there the countless lagging video issues with the conductor track and dropped frames in my recording. Discovery: Someone from Virtual Choir was online, ready to lend a helping hand (usually Jack Rowland in Florida, Kevin Callahan in Maine and Holly Christine Brown in Illinois). I wound up with three mediocre tracks (Bar 27 - 28 was still wobbly at this point). I did another 10 tracks that day, more if you include what I deleted right away.

Day #3 (January 29): While visiting relatives, I tried recording in a spare room. The sound quality sky rocketed. I came up with a work-around to the lagging video issue with some help. Three takes resulted in two good takes. I started ending each take with, "If this is the winning take, thank you to everyone involved with Virtual Choir...."

Water Night Recording

Night #4 (January 30 and 31): Entering the day of the final submission day. I decided to try "one more time" but in my studio bathroom. Takes had to take place whenever the furnace shut off for a spell (it was a cold week). Three takes garnered one that stood head an shoulders above the rest.

But that's just the music side of things. Virtual Choir 3.0 has introduced me to a multitude of choir geeks from around the world. When Eric spoke about the community that has built up, he wasn't exaggerating:


After posting the final take, I joined the throngs who kept checking the submission numbers and encouraged other members who were still working on their recordings. I also couldn't help checking (and re-checking) to make sure my submission was showing up in my VC profile.

Maestro and I celebrated the record number of submissions (3,746 from 73 countries) with people (and pets) from the UK, Australia, Puerto Rico, Canada and the US via Google Hangouts. As a group, we've helped each other with Virtual Choir submissions. We've supported each other through bad days, sad news, health and work problems. We've also celebrated each other's victories - great or small - a good performance, a great shopping spree and most recently, Maestro's birthday. And sometimes, we just hang out e.g. one person knitting, two working, one cooking. There is even talk of having Virtual Choir reunions around the world.

Some of us in Virtual Choir 3.0 are working on more projects together.

This was and continues to be an exciting experience. And speaking of projects, I should start practicing on our next one:

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