(This is a long post, so feel free to skim and just watch the videos) Several years ago, Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir was the coolest thing since multi-track videos replaced sliced bread on the list of really cool things. For those that were oblivious to the presence of said choir, let me give my brief overview of the process.
First, I'll let you know, I was in on this idea pretty much from the onset. I got to know Eric Whitacre's music while attending BYU and Dr. Ronald Staheli and the BYU Singers were finishing up their landmark CD of Whitacre's a cappella works. No, I wasn't part of that group. Yes, I wish I had been...that's a different story.
Anyway, years passed and the internet became more of a "thing" and companies, individuals, and even composers found it valuable to have a website. I decided to look up Eric Whitacre's website and I read something super interesting. He said that a girl (Britlin Losee) sent her a tribute video of herself singing the soprano 1 line of Sleep. He posted on his site something like "Wouldn't it be cool if 50 people did the same thing and the videos were put together into a virtual choir?"
Many of us responded with a hearty, "Heck, yes!"
Scottie Haines took up the charge and accepted our videos and put them together into what is now referred to as the Beta Virtual choir (click below to watch). 116 tracks of singers that never met and had only communicated via a chat room as we were completing the process. (Yes, that's me providing the "conductor track").
Whitacre saw it and thought, "Wow, that was freaking cool!" Ok, he probably didn't say it quite like that, but that's how it translated in my head. He said he wanted to be more involved in the next one, Lux Aurumque, so he made the conducting track and we submitted videos again, once again compiled by the amazing Scottie Haines. The experience was so brand new. Record your part in your bed room and suddenly be part of a huge choir! "Singing together, alone."
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After that, the word spread, the process grew too big for one person, and the outreach was amazing. Sleep 2.0, Water Night (my personal favorite), and Paradise Lost quickly followed with now more than 5,000 singers participating!! Whitacre even createdLive virtual choir events! The idea seemed to be taking the world by storm!
But then it all stopped...
Virtual Choir 4.0 was released in 2013 and everyone was left asking the question, "What's next?" There has yet to be an answer. From talking to people, the last video was so large that is now felt impersonal (I still have yet to find my video in all those little windows). I know I felt the same thing. Did we push the virtual choir so far that there is nowhere left to go?
I don't think so. Just as great composers looked back into the past to find inspiration for the future, a great innovator could look at this process and tweak it into it's next form.
I believe this a valuable form of choral experience. Yes, there are some caveats as there are with anything. Some voices get muted or severely lowered to create a blend with the better sounding voices. No one will deny that happens. That doesn't diminish the experience. The amateur performer, the novice singer, the closet performer, the shower-only singer have an outlet through Virtual Choir to experience what it means to sing with a group larger than yourself. My thought is that the experience could lead to a greater interest in choral singing and fostering of this love into the greater society.
So, innovators of the world, I call on you to create! Help us find our voices in the next incarnation of the Virtual Choir!
Composer, Choral Conductor, DMA Student,