Upper School Choir Performs "A House is Not a Home" Virtually

​While social distancing has proven to be a powerful force in mitigating the outbreak of COVID-19, its stifling effect has not been void of creating some unintentional consequences. Take, for instance, the areas of team sports and performing arts where social distancing has all but extinguished any participation. Yet, during these unprecedented times, it is fascinating to observe how a little creative ingenuity, in some ways, has mitigated the outbreak of social distancing. One such place is in the advent of “virtual choirs."

Click here to view their performance.

Like many coaches and directors in early February, Mr. Sanford was busy preparing his team of SMP Choir members for the upcoming Spring competitions. Except for this group, the stakes were even higher since they were preparing for the LMEA District Choral Festival where in previous years they had received superior ratings. “We have had some really strong showings the last couple of years and we're excited to deliver another great performance this year,” says Mr. Sanford, Ascension Episcopal School's Upper School choir director.

However, when mid-March rolled around, it became clearer and clearer that all their hard work and preparation would not be seen. Like other schools, Ascension was changing in-person instruction to distance learning and most co-curricular events were being postponed or canceled. So, instead of simply resigning to the fact that there would be no Spring concerts this year, Mr. Sanford began preparing his students for a different type of performance…a virtual one.

"After seeing several other videos online from some other amazing choirs performing their own “virtual choir", I decided we had to give it a try!” Mr. Sanford, who has served as the choir director for almost five years, is no stranger to getting creative during desperate times. “Because Ascension doesn't have an official performing space, we've needed to get very creative.” Mr. Sanford shared that he has adapted to performing in all sorts of spaces. "The gym, church, library, and even outside! So why not try it online?”

On the surface, a “virtual choir” looks fairly straightforward. First, have the students record themselves singing a piece of music. Second, take all the recordings and upload them to a movie editing software. Finally, add a little music underneath and viola, it’s done!! It was not as easy as it seemed.  “Yeah, it was definitely far more difficult than what I first anticipated,” Mr. Sanford says with a wry grin. “I probably spent over 50 hours! It was definitely a time-consuming task, including a lot of hours learning about Adobe Premiere Pro!”

In the end, the group chose to record Phillip Lawson's arrangement of "A House is Not a Home”. "I believe this song specifically resonates with our current climate. Before the current situation, the line, 'A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sitting there' used to elicit many chuckles in the classroom. However, in these precarious times, I think our students look at it a little differently.” Mr. Sanford went on to share that while he hopes to be back in the classroom sooner than later, this experience has proven that even under the most difficult circumstances the show must go on.

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