By Debbie Adams
The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir has not been deterred by the COVID-19 restrictions. The choristers, led by Director Kim Davidson, will still be performing their 33rd annual Spring Concert—virtual for the first time, and in essence from Davidson’s home.
The concert will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, live on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/roanokevalleychildrenschoir.
The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir will be celebrating its 34th season beginning in the fall of 2020. Under the direction Davidson, since 1987 the choir has grown to 240 singers, divided into three Training Choirs and a Concert Choir.
The RVCC Concert Choir has gained national accolades for excellence from performances at Regional and National Choral Conventions, a solo performance at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. in 2019, solo performances at Carnegie Hall and at numerous festivals and honor performances. Locally, the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir performs with Opera Roanoke and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.
Davidson said, “Over 200 choristers will be singing in the virtual concert, with over 350 individual voice tracks coming together throughout the concert!”
Each of the choirs will be performing one or two of their own songs in the virtual concert.
Vinton-area students who are members of the RVCC include Milton Clark, Nicholas Toney, Benjamin Hoyos, Sofia Gonzalez, Michael Hoyos, Callum Meadows, Jude Parkhurst, Giovanni Rossello, Piper Brown, Victoria Johnson, Hannah Kemp, Elsie Kincer, Kim Hoyle, Alex Coffey, Naomi Hodges, Eliza Otey, Maggie Parkhurst, and Maddie Waldron.
Performances will include “Come and Sing” and “Stars and Stripes Forever,” by the Concert Choir; “One Small Voice” and “Kokoleoko,” by the A and B Choirs; and “Alleluia” and “Tengo,” by the B+ Choir. The Little Singers will be singing, “You Are My Sunshine.” The Encore will be “Praise His Holy Name.”
“We believe that music can have a powerful positive impact in everyone’s life and when our annual spring concert was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we knew we couldn’t let that stop us!” is the message from the RVCC. “During this time of quarantine, our choristers have practiced at home, joined us for live ZOOM video rehearsals, recorded their individual singing on their own, and have come together with us in new ways to continue the RVCC tradition and create our concert in this new virtual format.
“Our singers have learned new skills along the way and been challenged in different ways we never would have imagined before. We are so proud of our choristers’ hard work and are so grateful that we have been able to continue creating music together! The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir is stronger than ever, thanks to all of our choir families, singers, staff, patrons, alumni, and choristers!”
Davidson says, “Rehearsals for all of our choirs have continued each week through videos and live ZOOM meetings as we prepare and record each portion for the upcoming virtual concert!”
There were two main steps in the process of creating the Virtual Choir Concert: Step 1, audio recording, and Step 2, video recording. Davidson describes the process as a “big project.”
For the audio step, each chorister received a video with Davidson directing each song they were to record with the piano accompaniment track and their voice part played on the piano for them to watch, sing, and practice with.
To record their individual voice audio, the singers all wore headphones while watching and listening to the video of Davidson playing and directing their songs. This way everyone was able to watch the director carefully for accurate entrances, cut-offs, phrasing, and musicality in their singing just like a real performance.
Most singers recorded their voice simply by using a voice recorder app on a mobile device. Some of the choristers went the extra mile on their voice recordings spending several hours to get the perfect take or using a full professional mic set up.
Each chorister then emailed their audio recording into RVCC.
Once all the individual tracks were received and organized by song, choir, and voice part, RVCC sent them off to professional sound engineer, Harold Thompson. During this process of syncing, balancing, mixing, and editing, all the individual audio tracks have come together into a virtual choir performance.
To record the video performances, RVCC used live ZOOM video meetings to record the Virtual Concert videos. What you will see as the video in the final concert is actually several live ZOOM recordings of small groups in grid view edited together to form a full choir.
Davidson conducted each song live for the singers during their concert video recording to follow and sing with their best facial expressions! “We even have virtual choreography that we are very excited about!”
With over 200 choristers to fit on the screen, it was necessary to have a tight schedule of 12 different smaller-sized recording groups. Each chorister was assigned to a certain “pod” with a specific call time on concert recording day.
During the video recording, all the singers were muted and only heard the audio coming from the meeting host. (The audio for the virtual concert is recorded separately as individual voice tracks.)
There was an impressive production set up where RVCC Assistant Director, Kirsti Davidson, could manage the computer and all technical aspects, while the choristers are able to see Director Davidson using a separate webcam and microphone.
“While we record, the singers are not in sync with what Ms. Davidson is directing live, but by the time it all gets back to us they are pretty in sync with each other for their mouths moving at the right times and even doing choreography motions!”
Even the youngest singers (ages 4-6) who are performing in the virtual concert. The Little Singers Class has continued virtually this semester with online video classes each week. They all sent in individual recordings of themselves singing “You Are My Sunshine” and recorded their virtual concert videos using their own Sunshine crafts as props in the song!
Generally, each year, auditions for RVCC for the coming year are arranged to take place soon after the Spring Concert. This year, during social distancing, virtual auditions will be offered online from May 15 to June 4. There will also be a virtual video “Ready, Set, Sing!” class to help students get ready for the virtual audition.
RVCC also plans to have in-person auditions at Bethel Baptist Church on August 22. Anyone interested in auditioning should visit their website at www.childrenschoir.com.
For a behind the scenes view of how the virtual concert was put together, visit https://www.childrenschoir.com/rvcc-virtual-concert.