Music + Arts

The Virtual Choir

As I sit to write this message, I’m smiling at the thought of you. It’s impossible to believe that nearly six months have passed since we last gathered together at the church. I am deeply grateful for the many ways we’ve been able to stay close. Through emails, e-cards, text messages, phone calls and Zoom meetings, it’s been such a blessing to keep in touch with you.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that the pandemic has presented a number of challenges in terms of our music ministry. Although the various social media I mention above are excellent for written and spoken communication, there is currently no technology available that allows musicians to make music together remotely in real time.

The next-best thing has turned out to be an elegant pre-recorded solution called “virtual choir.” We’ve produced two such recordings so far, our much-loved Lenten choral benediction and the weekly Doxology. Although simple in appearance, I’ve discovered that virtual choir videos are surprisingly tricky to make! First, a guide track is recorded by the director, consisting of a conducting video and an audio accompaniment. Next, each singer listens to the guide track on earphones as they record themselves singing their own part alone. Finally, the individual recordings are combined, edited, and mixed to create the beautiful illusion of a choir singing together that we all recognize. For the best results, this process requires roughly four hours of editing time for each minute of music.

It’s been an enjoyable challenge to make these videos during the quarantine, and I’m delighted to tell you that more are on the way! Beginning Homecoming Sunday, Sept. 13, we plan to offer brand new virtual renditions of favorite hymns and anthems. Although the choir and I would love to share music together in person, we’re so happy to be able to offer our ministry to you in this way. In this time of apparent change and uncertainty, I take ever more comfort in the deep peace of our faith. I know that we are in very good hands. And we’ll be singing together again before we know it.

Yours in faith,
Dr. Ryan Jackson