Interview with Chad Ohman of Virtual Choir 3

Suite 101 met Chad Ohman of Canada, one of the 2,945 singers who submitted 3,746 videos for Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3.0, "Water Night".

Chad Ohman (back row, 2nd from left), myself and some of our VC friends had dinner with Eric Whitacre in Vancouver.

Saxophonist and vocalist Chad Ohman is one of the 2,945 people from 73 countries who submitted a video for Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3.0 project: Water Night.

Ohman, a second-year music education major at the University of Alberta, submitted four videos for VC3.0: Tenor 4, Bass 1, 2 and 3. He sat down with Suite101 on April 18, 2012 to talk about VC and music's impact on his life.

Chad Ohman on Discovering Virtual Choir

“It was right after they closed submissions that I heard about Virtual Choir 2.0,” Ohman recalled. A friend who also sang with him in Edmonton's Kokopelli Choir told him about it. When he watched the virtual performance of Whitacre's “Sleep”, he was amazed.

“This is incredible for people to sit in their bedrooms, in their closets, in their cars. Wherever they could find a quiet place and sing. To have their voices come together and make this gorgeous sound that is like a choir sitting in a loft somewhere,” he remarked.

Chad Ohman on the Virtual Choir Community

In December 2011, composer Eric Whitacre announced on his website that the song chosen for Virtual Choir 3.0 was “Water Night” from his Grammy Award-winning album Light and Gold.

“December came along and I started working on “Water Night”,” the dual instrumentalist said. “January came around and then I started helping people because I noticed other people were helping people get their videos together.” He soon met other people who volunteered to answer questions and help singers troubleshoot right up to the final hours of submission. One small group of helpers formed what Eric Whitacre calls the “VC Army”.

“I started meeting these people that were helping,” Ohman commented. “These are some really stellar people. Full, big hearts.”

The VC Community continues to blossom on Skype, Facebook and Google Hangouts. What began as technical and moral support has developed into friendships and in Ohman's case, something more.

“I would never have thought in December that I would meet all of these people.” Ohman reflected. “That I would talk to these great people from all over the country, all over North America and all over the world...and learn so much from them. Nor would I have ever thought in December that I would meet this girl who would eventually fly up here for her spring break.”

“Water Night” World Premiere at Lincoln Arts Center

A total of 3,746 videos were submitted from around the world which were put together into one virtual “performance” that was unveiled on April 2, 2012. The event, which took place at the Lincoln Arts Center in New York, NY, was streamed live all over the world.

Ohman recalled the moment he watched Virtual Choir 3.0 for the first time. “Finally, the video dropped and we were sitting in the Hangout, just in awe,” he reminisced. “We were listening to Eric talk. We were listening to John Corigliano and Chris Anderson – the guy from TED – talk about the idea of Virtual Choir and what it's done to the choral area of music: bring people together and get people to sing who haven't sang in 30 or 40 years. I think that is the coolest thing ever."

“It's allowing people to sing again. It's letting people sing in a group again, especially in areas where they don't have a choir to sing with,” he added.

Chad Ohman On Future Projects

Chad Ohman, along with several members of the VC Army from Canada, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico and Australia continues to work on multi-track projects. The first was a video wishing Eric Whitacre good luck prior to the 2012 Grammy Awards.

Ohman recorded the conductor track and is editing the group's current project, Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium. The experience is teaching him some lessons. “I came to the conclusion that it's not going to sound perfect,” he stated.

“The more videos and the more voices that I've put into it, the better it sounds and the more full it sounds,” he said. “The harmonies come out where they should. If you stop the player and stop it for a second and listen to the separation of voices and the pitches, it sounds really good.

“Then you play the whole thing and then you hear some missed entrances,” he continued. “There's some late exits. There's some esses here and there. I think it's really cool because it adds character to the music.

“That's the whole reason we came together – to sing together. Who cares if it doesn't sound perfect? It's all of us singing together and that's all that matters.”

After some thought, he added. “Music isn't supposed to sound technically perfect. That's why I love performances. Those little tiny mistakes make the music for me. That's what adds personality. That's what adds character to the music.”

Chad Ohman on Lessons Learned from Music

“We could go on about this for a while,” he said with a laugh. “Definitely to be more tolerant of well to be more accepting of people and their beliefs,” he added.

“Music isn't all about competing and who sounds the best," said Ohman. "It's about sharing music, hearing new music, appreciating another group for what they're singing or what they're playing. What they're bringing to the table. What qualities they possess that you don't possess and how you can learn from them and make that a part of what you're doing.”

Upon a moment's reflection, Ohman added, “Music has really changed my life in the people that I've met and what I've learned from them. I can't let that go.”

Post script: Although Chad's career focus has changed since this interview, music continues to play an active role in his life.

Originally published on on April 23, 2012. All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.