Each fall, the Davis & Elkins College Concert Choir performs throughout the area and then ushers in the Advent season with a presentation of Lessons and Carols at Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church. While none of the performances could take place this year, Choir members spent four months creating a virtual offering.
Two selections will be released for the holiday season – “Within the Song” by Herb Frombach and Patti Drennan on December 4 and “Winter With You” by Pinkzebra on December 17. Both will be available on the Davis & Elkins College YouTube channel and on the College’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/DavisAndElkins. “Within the Song” can be viewed at https://youtu.be/i0-bdPxWck0. “Winter With You” can be viewed at https://youtu.be/zU9Wx1ojsrM on December 17.
Although students couldn’t share a stage, the performance was still about blending voices in harmony and a new emphasis was placed on the individual. Choir Director Liz Marshall-MacVean and Instructor of Music Donna Baroudi Huffman believe the process enhanced each singer’s performance strength.
“Our Choir is a very important part of the Elkins music community and I had no doubt that we could accomplish the task of a virtual choir production,” said Director Liz Marshall-MacVean. “The students kept open minds during the entire rehearsal process. I owe a big thanks to the D&E administration for giving me the creative freedom to present a virtual choir performance while facing the dilemmas of the pandemic. Now, we are very excited for future projects.”
Marshall-MacVean spent the spring and summer researching and learning in an attempt to find a solution to how to have a safe choir performance. A webinar from the National Association of Teachers of Singing presented a key word – aerosol, a potential mechanism for spreading the COVID-19 virus.
“When you sing, you take a deep breath and that creates more fluid. That fluid comes out in an aerosol that spreads over 12 feet,” Marshall-MacVean explained. “There has been a lot of research into recent studies on this with various organizations contributing.”
The data suggests singers maintain at least a 12-foot distance, and Marshall-MacVean says that can dramatically affect the sound produced by a choir. The predicament led Marshall-MacVean and Baroudi Huffman to focus on the singular performer and a whole new world of technology.
While their twice weekly in-person class focused on journaling their new process and lyrical study, the performance component was virtual. Students received an electronic copy of the music and a recording of Baroudi Huffman’s piano accompaniment. Students practiced their pitches while they were logged into a computer session with their instructors.
“Each student received more personal attention and guidance than they got previously in choir,” Marshall-MacVean said. “That’s going to make them a stronger singer in the end.”
Once each singer’s part reached the desired quality, they made individual recordings that were mixed at Lone Wolf Productions in Elkins to produce the electronic performance.
“There was a big learning curve in technology for Donna and me, but it’s worth it,” Marshall-MacVean said. “It preserves the integrity of what we do and helps ensure we will still have a choir on the other side of this.”
Members of the Davis & Elkins College Concert Choir are Peyton D. Beachler of Franklin, Destiny C. Brown of Elkins, Jennifer Harmon of Elkins, Emma L. Hicks of Buckhannon, Megan M. Huffnagel of Elkins, Jennifer L. Lantz of Bunker Hill, Lavania E. Lemasters of Stonewood, Kyia R. McGill of Buckhannon, Aliyah D. Plum of Elkins, Anna M. Ruf of Belington, Liliana K. Sigley of Elkins, Melody D. Smith of Fairmont, Jessica D. Walton of Dunmore, Emma L. Watson of Beverly and Matthew G. Weintraub of Lewisburg.