Chichester Singers combine musically in isolation for beautiful video

The Chichester Singers have combined in the midst of social lockdown to create beautiful, musical harmony.

Sunday, 26th April 2020, 8:00 am
Jonathan Willcocks

Singing their parts separately, members of the choir were then blended by the magic of technology into a splendid whole.

Musical director Jonathan Willcocks is delighted with the result – 68 singers merging their voices in a moving rendition of Mozart’s short choral motet Ave Verum Corpus.

It offers a stirring act of togetherness in our isolation times.

“I was determined that even though the choir was not able to meet and rehearse together and perform together that I wanted to find a way still to create a sense of unity and involvement.

“I asked our accompanist Sue Graham Smith to make a selfie-video playing the accompaniment to the short choral motet Mozart – Ave Verum Corpus. I then asked all our singers, while listening to the accompaniment through ear-piece or headphones, to sing their own soprano, alto, tenor or bass part while filming themselves on their phones and to send the video to me.

“Many of the singers were very nervous, feeling terribly exposed. And listening back to themselves, some of them were wrongly horrified by their recordings and decided that they didn’t want to do it. But that is the great miracle of amateur choral singing. Virtually none of them are solo voices and wouldn’t aspire to be or want to be, but if you put a good number of them together – and we had 68 videos –you get the great miracle, the fact that together when they perform, amateur choirs can be the equal of the professionals. Many of them have been delighted to see it back.

“It was a piece that the choir had sung recently so everybody knew it, and it seemed much better to choose a more expressive piece than the rather more shouty Hallelujah Chorus or Zadok the Priest, which many choirs have done. I don’t think you would have the subtlety or the sense of communication that a piece such as this one has.”

“My son Charlie then undertook the Herculean task of mixing them all into a single video – sound and images. You can see the result at https://youtu.be/IQ5WC_zR6_4 He is a freelance musician working more in the popular field, but he did a masters in sound technology and is quite a techie! He has got the right sophisticated software. When you are dealing with 68 different videos, you have got to co-ordinate them to get the balance and the mix and then get the video right so that we are seeing what we are hearing.”

It was also a question of combining the 68 different faces in the right way and in response to the music. Jonathan is thrilled by the result – and so are the choir.

“They are really chuffed. I have had an enormous number of messages back saying how pleased they were, how it had made some of them cry. I wanted them to feel a sense of achievement and involvement. We had some people who were wrongly horrified by their videos and decided not to do it – and are now wishing they had. It has been a lovely response. We had well over half the choir taking part.

“I think it has been a great deal of fun for everyone involved. The result is living proof of the miracle of large-choir choral singing – that the whole is so much more than the sum of the individual parts.”

Jonathan will be looking at other ways to keep the togetherness going: “Let’s let the dust settle on this one. But if this is going to be a long haul, then I definitely think we should be looking at some other projects.”

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