Choir department to perform in winter concert video 

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Students in Minnesingers practice for the winter concert. Photo credit: Jordan Poltorak

Emma Newman staff writer 

A winter concert video, which will be shown on Dec. 9, will showcase holiday music performed by the Madrigal, Minnesinger, and Beginning Men’s and Women’s choirs. 

Because of online learning constraints, the annual holiday concert will take place in the form of a pre-recorded and edited video using layered clips of different performers.

Vocal teacher Ethan Smith decided against having a live performance via Zoom because of lags and poor audio quality that can come with the program. 

“The problem with Zoom is there’s a delay,” Smith said. “When we’re speaking that’s one thing that’s fine, but when you’re trying to line up intricate timing with the music, it’s really very difficult to do. The [other] thing that happens, which you don’t think about, is if you have a high pitch, the microphones on these computers…cut that out so I can’t hear the high notes for the Sopranos.” 

Instead, Smith has used the Flipgrid platform to hear each piece of audio individually. Each week, he assigns students specific parts which allow him to hear each part of the song “bit by bit” and evaluate them. He still finds this to be a challenge, though. 

“Teaching choir via Zoom is like driving a bus, except for the steering wheel’s at the back of the bus instead of the front of the bus,” Smith said. “It’s been crazy, and it’s really difficult.” 

During class Zoom practices, students either sing together as a group or in breakout rooms. For the Madrigal singers, breakout rooms are often used to separate the tenors and bases from the altos and sopranos because a group performance can get “a little chaotic,” senior Parsa Farnad said. 

Minnesinger junior Jordan Poltorak also has found practices to be frustrating, even without the challenge of having a mixed choir.  

“It’s been hard to learn songs and so everything’s a little off,” Poltorak said. “Everything comes in at different times, so it’s really hard to sing with all the parts together.” 

After helping the students practice, Smith started working on mixing the different tracks from various performers to create a finished video. This has been hard for him, although he appreciates the help of accompanist David Lee and instrumental music teacher Bill Bradbury

“That’s been the biggest challenge is how to make this recording,” Smith said. “Imagine trying to mix together recordings from people in their own homes all making things with a Google Doc. It’s been a steep learning curve, to say the least.” 

However, hearing the video’s finished product had been his favorite part of putting together the video so far. 

“I just heard my first rough recording, and to hear all the voices blended together for the first time was just wonderful to hear,” Smith said. “To hear all the different voices that I’ve been hearing separately finally come together and sound like a choir for the first time has just been…great.” 

Farnad is also excited to see the final version of each song. 

“I am really looking forward to seeing the final product because it’s been a while since I’ve been part of a project where I get to perform…music with people and so seeing how that turns out is exciting for me,” Farnad said. 

He believes other people should also want to see the video because of the talent of the choirs, specifically the Madrigals. He thinks students should know what is happening with the programs at school. 

“Just in general, our school always…benefit[s] from when people take part in what other groups are doing,” Farnad said. “Knowing what other groups are doing is always a great thing.”  

Poltorak thinks people should watch the performances to celebrate the program’s hard work and the holiday season.

“We’ve been working on it all semester, and I think it’ll bring a lot of holiday cheer again,” Poltorak said. “Within this time, I feel like that’s needed.” 

Smith agrees that this is a time that people need to raise their “spirits” due to the concerns of COVID-19. More than that, he thinks that people now “have hope” of COVID-19 ending in the near future, which should be appreciated. 

“You can’t go to school and you can’t see your friends, [so] to listen to it and to hear voices come together… is what the holiday season is all about,” Smith said. “It’s a great way to go out on the year [because] we have hope. I would listen to it to know that good work is being done at the high school and good singing and good art is happening and we’re all working the best we can with it.”

 

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