Zoom screen showing multiple singers in individual locationsSpecial technology enables music students to combine their performances separated in space but not in time.

Virtual party to bring audiences to music performances Thursday

For music students in the School of Creative Arts (SoCA), the pandemic has meant that their ensemble courses — requiring singers and instrumentalists to meet in person as a choir or orchestra — have not been possible.

However, through creativity, innovation, and an investment in technology, for the past four weeks, students taking the hybrid ensemble workshop courses have been able to play their part in solitude but hear the other performers without any delay or distortion in the sound.

SoCA installed microphones in 21 practice rooms and small classrooms located in the basement of the Armouries. The cables plug into a mixing board located in the Rehearsal Hall. There the ensemble director and all the students are hard-wired into the sound board. The master of the mixing board is Trevor Pittman, the school’s concert producer and operations manager.

“We have 21 spaces down the hall where students would normally go to practise their instrument or sing. And they are mostly soundproofed,” explains Pittman. “Seeing the students interacting in a way that for a whole year wasn’t possible, and for a subject that you are so passionate about, is just an incredibly wonderful, emotional moment.”

Normally, in a Zoom rehearsal, participants must remain muted so they hear only the piano accompaniment and the instructor’s voice.

“I think our flexibility comes from taking the time last spring and summer to think about different possibilities, to dream different plans,” says Bruce Kotowich, SoCA’s acting director and director of choirs. “Now, with the system that we have in the basement of the Armouries, we have this cohort [of students] that comes in. They can hear and see each other, and they can react to one another. No more bedroom karaoke doing Zoom choir.”

This semester, students rehearsed large and small ensemble pieces, arranged new pieces for their friends, and spent about four weeks in live rehearsals, and then recorded their individual parts to all their repertoire. A team of hardworking audio and video editors then assembled all the individual recordings into concert videos.

Join SoCA on Thursday, April 8, at 7 p.m., as the students share their work from this semester and celebrate the successes possible in these challenging times at a watch party on Zoom. Attendees will see and hear performances by the Jazz Ensemble, the Choral Project, and the Wind Chamber Workshop whose selections were arranged by students.

Individual registration is required to attend. Register for the SoCA Watch Party here.

—Susan McKee