by Bill Adams, VP of Music & Performance
One of the challenges facing all of our chapters and quartets during Coronatide is how to stay active and engaged. Most of us are unwilling to risk exposure, or exposing each other, to the virus, and so we sit at home and try to think of how we can keep singing. Zoom rehearsals help to fill some of the social void but leave all of us wanting in terms of our musical connections.
And yet, this year, is the tenth anniversary of our District and we all wanted to do something special. I had been thinking that we would all learn some kind of mass-sing piece to perform at the Fall Festival, or assemble a special group of past champions, etc., that could perform at the Festival but when the pandemic hit, those plans went out the window. Then, with the success we were having with Heart of Carolina with our virtual projects, I began to think perhaps we could do something, after all.
Before March of this year, I had never considered even trying to create what I refer to as “Brady Box” videos. I’d seen the Eric Whitacre projects but had never even participated as a singer in one. Since March, however, I have created a number of small videos either for Heart of Carolina or in my position as Director of Music at Church of the Holy Family, in Chapel Hill. These are all skills I’ve had to acquire in isolation — as so many of us have had to do as our lives have shifted.
I chose Gary Lewis’ arrangement of “When You Believe” because of the obvious, uplifting message of hope — something we all need to hear more of right now. The piece is designed to feature two quartets and a chorus (he wrote it for an AIC chorus with Masterpiece and Vocal Spectrum), so it lends itself very well for the kind of showcase I wanted this to be.
And so the call went out far and wide to every single one of our past champion quartets in the Men’s, Senior’s, Youth, and Mixed contests to see who could reassemble and participate. Conducting guide videos were created, learning tracks and scores sent out, and lots and lots of detailed instructions about how to record and film.
In the end, we had fifteen quartets representing sixteen championships (Let’s Sing! brings two titles to the project: 2010 Quartet Champion and 2018 Senior Quartet Champion) who were able to participate. A total of 49 singers.
We also needed a chorus. I sent out invitations through the Carolina Crooner and direct emails to each chapter. In the end, a total of 27 singers responded. Thankfully, we had pretty decent representation across the parts, but some of our quartet folks were particularly gung-ho about this project and stepped up to provide chorus tracks, as well. Ultimately, we had about 90 audio tracks and around 75 videos.
Creating the final video was, as you might imagine, a massive project. I spent time with each and every audio track to compensate for differences in the recording technologies being used. Some tracks required no equalization work and others required quite a bit. I also used some “correction” software to help align the performances (entrances — “s” and “t” sounds, etc). Only minimal pitch correction was used — I’m a stickler for creating as natural and “human” a sound as I can so I won’t over-process or “auto tune” tracks and I leave in little pitch scoops and the like because it makes it sound like human beings actually made music. My wife, Nicole, created the layouts we used for each moment on screen and did the Herculean work of resizing and placing each and every video. My son, Michael, handled all of the quartets in the credits. In the end, it was around 100 hours of editing to put this thing together.
I sent a copy of it to Gary Lewis before our festival. He told me he watched it “with tears in his eyes” and congratulated all of us on how beautifully it turned out.
I’m very grateful to everyone who participated and to Nicole and Michael for their help putting it together. I know it is tedious and somewhat difficult to create these individual videos and it certainly isn’t as much fun singing in a vacuum. I sincerely hope each and every person who did participate is happy, and proud, of what we created.
Everybody remember their parts — because I am looking forward to singing this in person someday … soon.