Toronto Chamber Choir Blog

September 11, 2020
Author: Lesia Komorowsky

Singing Virtually

For choral singers everywhere, March 2020 came as a shock — that something so beautiful as singing together could be one of the riskiest activities during a pandemic. It was certainly an abrupt adjustment to my life, isolating in my home and not going out to rehearsals several times a week. Having more time on my hands, I started perusing online music sites and that’s how I came across virtual choirs.

My first foray into the world of virtual choirs was Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 “Sing Gently.” I signed up, downloaded the score and a video with Whitacre conducting, as well as soundtracks of full SATB and sectional recordings. What I really enjoyed were the many sessions offered weeks before the submission deadline. There were online rehearsals and reviews of each part, as well as plenty of videos offering vocal warm-ups and tips from voice teachers from the UK and the US. This was such a positive experience that I was thrilled to learn that Lucas, with the TCC executive’s blessing, has crafted a season offering the TCC singers weekly webinars from musicians and vocal clinicians.

The actual recording was somewhat tricky if you don’t have a studio and proper equipment. With my laptop precariously perched on a stepladder high enough so I could stand in front of it to record, extra lamps to brighten the room, and an iPhone so that I could listen to the recording through earbuds while I sang, I must have tried over 20 times before I had something I could submit. About six weeks after the submission deadline, the video came out; the final product was so moving and impressive (especially technologically!) with more than 17,500 singers, that I felt wonderful being a tiny part of it.  

Soon after I signed up for VC6, I came across Candace Smith’s appeal for singers to participate in her Isabella Leonarda 400th anniversary project. Smith’s women’s ensemble, Cappella Artemisia, specializes in performing the music of 16th and 17th century Italian nuns. I’ve followed this ensemble for several years and have many of their recordings of amazing music written by cloistered composers. While Italy is a far way to go to attend a "weekend" workshop (and, of course, the pandemic has currently put a stop to workshops), it’s my hope that maybe one day I will do this.

Having performed some wonderful music written by women composers with TCC, there was no question I wanted to take part in this project as well. So, again, I signed up, downloaded the music and soundtracks of pronunciation and a metronome to keep tempo, made my recording, and submitted it. That was months ago, and I had almost forgotten about it, so it was a treat to see the video finally come out, especially as there were more individual videos in this production.

Back in March, there weren’t many virtual choirs, but there are so many of them now, including opportunities to take part in some projects. And every day there are lots of online virtual performances from choirs around the world, both professional and amateur.  While there’s nothing like a live performance, on a positive note, with the incredible number of online performances on YouTube, Facebook, and other websites, I’m able to attend concerts (albeit virtually) of many professional ensembles that I would not otherwise have had an opportunity to hear.

I have mixed feelings about virtual choirs. Recording yourself somewhat in a vacuum is nowhere near as satisfying as the experience of singing together, hearing harmonies around you, striving to blend and make beautiful music with others.  However, even if your voice may not make a difference one way or another in the overall sound of a huge virtual choir, taking part in one with singers from around the world does make you feel that you are part of a huge global choral community. Judging from the posted comments I’ve seen from singers all over, I can truly say that EVERYONE can’t wait to get back to singing together!

 

Lesia Komorowsky (alto) sings with the Toronto Chamber Choir, the Ukrainian women’s ensemble Vesnivka, and in her church choir.  As a singer for whom choral singing has been a lifelong passion, she has enjoyed wonderful experiences throughout her many years as a chorister in both large and small ensembles — including singing for two popes!


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