Interview with CA Edington of Virtual Choir 3.0

When I was with Suite101, I interviewed CA Edington from Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3.0 to discuss musical traditions, life in Japan and Virtual Choir.









CA Edington of Sapporo, Japan, recorded the Soprano 4 part to Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3 project: “Water Night” from Whitacre's Grammy-winning album, Light & Gold. This huge multi-track project received a total of 3,746 videos from amateur and professional singers worldwide. The audio and video was cleaned on each submission before they were incorporated together.

Ms. Edington sat down with Suite101 on April 14 and 28, 2012 via Skype to discuss Eric Whitacre's music, life in Japan and Virtual Choir.

CA Edington on Musical Traditions

Virtual Choir Member CA Edington from Japan. Photo from CA Edington.

CA grew up in a very musical family around upstate New York. “Everybody would go to my grandparents' house at Christmas,” she recalled. “It was in a small town in Ohio and they had a huge house. We would all stay there for two or three days, and the piano was never empty.”

Christmas carols were unique. “Christmas morning, we would all gather around the tree and before we opened the presents, we would sing a carol in four-part harmony. I thought this was a tradition that was carried on everywhere, in every family. I didn't realize it was just us,” she added with a laugh.

CA Edington on Living and Singing in Japan

CA Edington moved to Japan in 1982 and hasn't looked back since. “I wanted to be in another culture, not just visit. I wanted it to be another culture that's very different from the US.” CA works as an English teacher, proofreader, narrator and transcriber in Sapporo.

CA has nothing but warm things to say about her adopted home. “The city of Sapporo is such an easy city to get around, compared with a lot of places in Japan because it is only a little over 100 years old. The public transportation is fantastic here. I live near a gorgeous park. I can walk through that park anytime of day or night and feel completely safe.”

One of the draws to Sapporo for CA is the vibrant arts community. “Music is very big here,” she said. “There are a lot of choral competitions. There are so many choruses, I don't even know how many.”

Sapporo also boasts The Pacific Music Festival, which was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1990. “He founded it here in Sapporo. Young musicians come from all over the world for a month to study and perform here in Sapporo.”

CA was one of the first members of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra Chorus. “It just got started about five years ago,” she recalled. “A student knew about the auditions and she got the audition papers for me and I thought, “Oh. I'll just fill them out.” I was in another chorus, a pretty high level chorus that does mainly classical music and I was very happy in that chorus. I thought, “I'll just try out,” and I went and tried out. Actually, there were about six people from my chorus, six other women and a couple of the men who tried out as well.”

The audition process took place in several stages. “First, we had to do sight reading. I mean cold. We got the piece and got to look at it for 30 seconds and then we had to go in and sing it. The next stage of the audition process was to sing an excerpt from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Getting accepted was a pleasant surprise. “Fast forward to a month later. The class that had recommended that I join the chorus was just finishing up. I went across the hall and found a letter from the symphony. I opened it and I couldn't exactly understand what it was saying.” With a laugh, she added, “So I took it over to my class members and they read it and said, “CA you got in!””

After a moment's reflection, she added. “I wasn't sure whether they would accept me or not, but I've been very accepted. What I love about the chorus is that I'm not a gaijin [non-Japanese] in the chorus. I'm a soprano.”

CA Edington Discusses Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir

CA learned about Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir shortly after VC2: “Sleep”, so she had to wait for almost another year to participate in VC3. “I thought 'OK, I'll learn the piece in a couple of days and record it and then that'll be it.' Well, I didn't start until the middle of January and what I discovered was that it was going to be much more challenging than I had thought; especially since I chose Soprano 4.”

She can laugh easily now about some of the challenges she experienced. “Then I'm ready for recording, right before the deadline. I mean, a day or two and there was trouble! I kept getting error messages and then discovered – because I was on the Facebook site and also checking the website – that others were having technical problems.”

Another issue was staggering the breath. “When you're with a chorus you stagger your breath with the person around but here you are singing alone and where do you stagger the breath?” She decided to check some of the other Virtual Choir submissions. “I don't think I heard anyone who got all the way through “soul” the final word, without taking a breath; so then I felt more relaxed about it.”

In the end, it all worked out. “I don't even know how the technicians work that out. To me, that's amazing, but I suppose once you get 3,500 plus voices together, it's not that noticeable who's taking a breath where.”

CA Edington on Eric Whitacre's Music and the “Water Night” Premiere

CA was moved when VC3: "Water Night" and Water Night the album premièred on April 2, 2012. “When that blue screen came up and the faces started – even talking about it right now, I'm getting chills. Just chills,” she recalled. “Of course, I was riveted, not just because I had participated in it, but because the whole concept and the piece and Eric himself are all – I don't want to use the word “amazing”. That's overused. I can't find a word that describes it entirely. It gave me chills. Pleasant chills. Good chills.”

Like many Whitacre fans, Eric Whitacre's music holds a special place in CA's heart. “It transports me when I hear it. It's so complex and at the same time, so simple. How he gets all those notes in there and how they end up sounding so together, I have no idea. The man is a genius and he is the kind of genius that is just so rare.”

Originally published June 12, 2012.  All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.