It is super disappointing when our concert season is cancelled. Each scenario across the country may be different, but so many of us will not be seeing live audiences.
How we choose to adapt to a “cancelled concert” may depend on our specific circumstances. If we are still holding in-person rehearsals, we certainly have more options than those of us who are fully remote.
Regardless of each specific scenario, I have a few last-minutes suggestions. None of these suggestions will replace a traditional winter concert, but they will provide a musical connection to your community and/or provide your singers with an outlet to share their passion for music-making.
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Here are 6 Last-Minute Suggestions when your concert has been CANCELLED:
1. Plan to livestream a rehearsal
If your students rehearse in-person, a “concert” can simply be a broadcast of what you are normally doing. This “event” could be set-up on YouTube quite easily. Links could be posted on the district website and sent out to friends and relatives. The rehearsal could be as formal or as casual as desired. By making your web-audience your focal point, you will be able to make different choices than a traditional concert with a live audience. You may want to engage your audience in the rehearsal experience and then perform a few pieces.
2. Record a rehearsal
If your students rehearse in-person, an iPhone, iPad, Chromebook, or video camera can capture some great footage of a rehearsal that could be made into an “informal” concert video. A quality mic attached to any device would even further improve the sound quality. The goal is to draw your community into the music-making that has continued in your choral program throughout the pandemic.
3. Create a highlight video
This concept works for both in-person and fully remote programs. If your choir is fully virtual, share recorded highlights of previous holiday concerts and traditions; weave in some current footage and photos. Have current students talk about the magic of singing together. I’d also suggest adding some virtual class experiences into the video to show how choir is functioning this season.
If your choir is in-person, make a highlight video of the current in-class choir experience, adding some clips of them singing.
4. Create a choir video message for the community
Using a previous audio recording of your choir in the background, make a video message from your choir members. Ask various choir members to share what choir means to them and what choir has felt like this year. This group project will be invaluable to your students and resonate with your community. I recommend getting your students involved with every aspect of this project, including the editing and promotion.
5. Make the “ever-dreaded” virtual video
If your choir is fully virtual, a virtual video is a worth-while project, albeit time-consuming, and/or expensive. I’m going to offer specific suggestions that I think will make this experience as beneficial as possible while limiting the time, effort, and cost.
1. Pick 1 song, and only 1 song
Choose a simple, yet meaningful song. Limit the time it takes to learn the music. Provide a part tape for students to practice to (and later record to). If done well, this one recording will be special. If you have a traditional song, or an alumni song, this may be a great choice. Less is more.
2. Use the pre-recorded part tape as a guide for each singer when recording
With an exact tempo and a clear vocal part in their ear, every singer has the opportunity to successfully record. It will make editing and mixing that much easier.
3. Make sure you hire a great sound engineer (unless you know what you are doing)
If you are going to make a virtual recording, allow it to sound amazing. When edited and mixed by a professional engineer, your choir will sound better than they ever could live. When done poorly, your choir will sound far worse than they would live.
If you hire an engineer for a three-minute video, you can generally keep your cost down. Anything more than this can be cost-prohibitive, and frankly, it loses its effect anyway. You only need to hire someone for the audio, not the video; I will explain more when you continue reading.
4. Record audio and video separately
Audio is recorded and any video of your students should be lip-synced. In fact, I would recommend spending the money on the audio engineering and then creating a meaningful montage of your group, maybe adding in some singing faces at the beginning and end. This will simplify the process, since the audio will be the main attraction.
Please note that the virtual video I posted above of my high school choir recorded the audio and video together. While I’m proud of our final product, thanks to Nicky Brenner‘s “virtual” skills, we hit numerous roadblocks when recording this way. One major issue was the audio and video not properly syncing on some of the submissions; this required us to leave some students out of portions of the video, even though their voices are prominently heard. The sound quality could have been better if students were focused on creating the best audio recording rather than having to be concerned with camera angles and lighting.
Below, I posted a video that is not a virtual recording, but it comprises several ideas mentioned in the post. The audio component was recorded live by the choir, but the singers are lip-syncing for the video. What makes this video special is the “real” footage that reflects the pandemic. The video tells a story of what music making has been like for this choir. The music-making is stellar and this video, in my opinion, is the best one I’ve seen on YouTube.
6. Skip the winter concert and move on to caroling
This is the option I chose for my choir. The most meaningful December musical experience for our school community is holiday music. While parents, alumni, and community members look forward to our traditional winter concert, no video will ever replace it’s impact. I believe that focusing on a caroling video will have maximum impact and require the least amount of time to perfect.
My next blog post, coming out later this week, will provide tips on virtual caroling this year.
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