Virtual Choir 2.0 Preview

Just saw this tweet from @tedtalks about Virtual Choir 2.0. Watch this video and get a glimpse of Eric Whitacre’s Sleep sung by 2000 voices! If you read my first post about VC, you’d be wondering if I participated for the second project. The answer is yes! The full video should be coming out on April 7th – I am very excited to see it!

But for now – here’s Eric Whitacre on TEDTalks on Virtual Choirs and introduction of Sleep project:

~ Yoon

For the Love of It: Sing!

I can’t hear a thing right now.

I’m standing outside of a high school auditorium during the intermission of Project Philly concert. The foyer area is filled with vibrant noise of about 500 concert attendees – they have a great reason to be excited.

One of music teachers in my PLN, @thomasjwest, had tweeted out about this group and his involvement sometime during this summer. I remember reading about its history and reasons behind this group, I wanted to attend their annual concert.

A cappella singing is brutally hard, I have to be admit. There’s very little room to hide inconsistent intonation, messy harmonic changes, or colorless dynamic levels. But a cappella singing is also wonderfully powerful as it  brings everyone’s attention to the human voice and nothing else.

The five-year old Project Philly consisted of two performing groups, Project Pewter and Project Crimson. Each ensemble had uniquely different personalities and song sets. But they shared one prominent interest: SINGING.

I know, it sounds ridiculously obvious – or is it?

Other than in popular collegiate circles, it isn’t everyday that one sees a handful of young people get together to sing. This is how Project Philly got its start: 17 singers – 17 people who missed a cappella singing – got together, making their own song arrangements, running the rehearsals, and volunteering their houses (or their parents’ since many of them look like they are just out of high school!) for weekly rehearsals. Five years later, this group has grown into membership of 75.


This got me thinking. Just like how my neighbor makes time to play in a community flag football team a few times a week, or like some ladies getting together to scrapbook monthly, these young people get together for the sheer love of singing. Songs are a part of who they are. Singing is who they are.

I briefly said hi to @thomasjwest and found out that most of these singers have sung in high schools or colleges and just missed singing so much. I am so glad that they had such great experiences in their youth that left them wanting more.

I really enjoyed the concert. The ensembles made good connection with the audience and the music. A few  arrangements were just too difficult for the group and their sound suffered because of it. But these are quickly forgotten by other songs that captivated us with beautiful balance of sounds – sounds that made us wish we were singing with them. The concert was about good music, good singing, and sharing a passion for building communities through music. One of my favorite song arrangements was Michale Jackson’s Rock with You. Great job, @tomjwest for a fun arrangement! Project Pewter sounded really good!

Music teacher in me couldn’t help, but think about the teachers/directors who instilled a love of singing in these singers. Whoever it was from their elementary, middle, or high schools, has helped them to find their passion. Gave me a lot to think about.

Check out their site. If you’re a local to Philly, come out to their concert next year. Project Philly connects well with its community by raising funds for arts scholarship and partnering with Philabundance (local food bank). After hearing them and learning about them, you just might end up singing with them.

I want to thank Philly Project for its passion and love for music and for their willingness to share it with us.

Wouldn’t it be great for my students to grow up and take up a hobby like this?

~ Yoon

You might also be interested to read:

Tom West’s blog entry: The A Capella Project Philadelphia: A Love Story

What? A Virtual Choir?

There is strength in number, especially in a choir.

Choral singing, for me, is one of life’s vitamins. When people come together and sing, they are:

  1. making music through the medium that is most innate to them,
  2. expressing emotions, nuances and phrases perhaps we cannot possibly express even with the most descriptive words,
  3. choosing to be with others to enjoy working on making something beautiful.

When I learned about Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque project, I was very happy. As a composer and conductor, Whitacre brought 185 people together.

So what’s the big deal?

The 185 people auditioned through YoutTube videos (much like last year’s YouTube Orchestra).  185 singers and 235 tracks after, the Virtual Choir was born. It’s a compliation of 185 individuals’ videos.  These singers have never sung in a rehearsal together or worked with Whitacre in person for this project.

Have a listen:

I think it’s remarkable the way Whitacre planned for this project (you can read about it here) so that the end result would be more or less realistic. As I was watching one of the videos Whitacre made for the singers, I was struck by a couple of things that really attributed to why I think this virtual choir worked:

  • First ~ Whitacre prepared the choir well. As a choral conductor, score reading or giving directions, is something that we all have to communicate to our singers. I noticed that Whitacre was very clear with his directions with score reading AND recording directions. This reminded me that short and clear directions make everyone’s life a bit more simple 🙂
  • Second ~ Everyone who were chosen to participate, prepared their best. Although the audition medium was a video and through a non-traditional method, all the singers clearly learned the music very well. I enjoyed watching small YouTube screens of people’s expressions. There’s so much we can express through singing! Beautiful!
  • Third ~ What a creative concept! Compiling real people’s sounds (in essence, sampling their singing) into parts are what sound engineers do best. Who would have thought it to put together a choir together?

Here are some of my students who shared their thoughts in their blogs after hearing this virtual choir:

I thought that it was very cool that Eric Whitacre had the idea to bring all those singers together in a unique way.  It amazes me that they were able to perform that song without even coming together to rehearse.  I would think that everyone would have to come together at one point to practice.  I also think that the way all the videos were put together made a good visual. Overall unique video….

I thought that it was a very interesting thing to listen to. I think it is sad that the people never got to meet each other and compare how they thought the virtual choir went. It was something new, and i thought that was interesting. it might be fun to be involved in something like that. I think it would be a great experience.

I thought the virtual choir was a big advancement in bringing people who are alike together through the internet. I felt like the music really sounded good and i can see why Eric Whitacre is a very renowned composer even in modern times. I can say that the music really moved me because so many people singing in this kind of way is very profound in that it can bring everyone together through music.

Aren’t they interesting thoughts from 8th graders? Although there are people like Chloe Veltman of the Arts Journal who wrote a review titled, “Lies Like Truth” (you can guess what her review is about by the title edit: I really enjoyed reading Ms. Veltman’s post; we just disagree on the possibility of real musicality that can be produced this way), but I think I took away more things I learned from Eric Whitacre and the choir. I loved the creative ways to bring people together to make beautiful music.

I hope I can participate in his next project.

So what did you think? I would love to hear from you!