Monday, March 23, 2020

How to sing together in times of isolation

We are living in unprecedented times. People are not allowed to socialise.

How do we keep singing together? I’ll look at some of the options.

It’s not only during a pandemic that we need to stay at home. There are times when we might be too ill to leave the house, or we need to stay home to care for someone.

Social isolation can be difficult at the best of times, but it’s even harder when we’re used to gathering regularly with a bunch of other people to make music. I’m sure many of you are missing your choirs right now.

In these times of seclusion, separation and retreat from the world, are there ways of continuing to make and enjoy music together?

Making Music has a useful resource here: COVID-19: staying connected

I’m going to run through some of the possibilities out there. But first, I’d like to ask you a question:

What kind of singing opportunities from home would you welcome that aren’t generally available at present?

For example:
  • Would you like to be taught the harmony part to a new song each week and then be able to sing along with the other parts? Is a sound file OK, or would you prefer to see the teacher too?
  • How about a “song of the week” dropping into your inbox to keep you entertained (a chance to listen to songs that you may not be familiar with)?
  • Any other ideas you can think of?

joining an online sing-along

First of all, it’s important to note that there is currently no way of singing together at the same time using the internet. This probably won’t ever be possible due to the way that data is sent over the internet.

It has to be limited to each person singing along with the singing leader. You might be able to see the other singers, but you won’t be able to hear them because of the inherent time delay between each person due to their internet connection.

If you’ve seen one of those videos with video thumbnails of individuals all singing together this will not have been recorded live. It’s what has become known as a '”virtual choir” (see below).

There are many choir leaders offering regular sing-alongs online. Many are using the Zoom platform, but also Facebook Live and others. You don’t need any special equipment (not even a video camera, although most computers and smart phones have them built in). You don’t even need a microphone because nobody else will be able to hear you! You just click on a web link for the session. You may be asked to download a small piece of software. It’s all very straightforward.

Here are some of the many offerings currently available:

virtual choirs

These take their lead from Eric Whitacre’s various projects. The idea is that you learn a song, then record yourself singing it whilst listening to some kind of guide track to keep you in time and tune (a backing track or person teaching). You then email this into the organisers and they will edit it together with all the other submissions to make a “virtual choir” singing all the harmony parts at the same time.

Here are some of the many offerings currently available:

get the family involved

What a great opportunity to get the whole family singing! Although I wrote this post about singing at Christmas, much of it can be applied now: 10 tips to get the whole family singing

rope in the neighbours too

Bearing in mind that we need to stay at least 2 metres apart, why not have a garden music-making session with your neighbours? I’m sure you’ve seen all those people singing from their balconies in Italy. With the nicer weather, get your neighbours to join in with instruments, things they can bang, familiar songs, etc. Use your neighbourhood WhatsApp group to arrange a convenient time.

other suggestions

I’m sure there are plenty of other singing opportunities out there during these stay-at-home times. Do leave a comment and let us know of any others.

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Chris Rowbury




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