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By Felicity Turner

Olympic ceremonies, virtual flash mobs, global singalongs, even appearing in a light show at Disneyland – the options for virtual choirs to wow audiences both live and online post-pandemic are endless.

Virtual choirs have kept us going this last year. The ability to join a global singing community while restricted to our living room was one of the saving graces of 2020/21.

But as we all start to venture back to live events, does that leave virtual choirs having to stay at home?

Absolutely not! Just as they did before the pandemic, we believe that virtual choirs have a place in a post-pandemic world. We’ll always relish the ability to bring people together from around the globe to meet and sing with their favourite artists. And as we also go back to live music-making, virtual choir members will have the chance to have their voice heard in even more incredible locations.

What’s more, the mind-blowing technology available to us today means we can combine live and virtual performances to create truly mesmerising works of art that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

To prove it, we’ve rounded up our ten favourite times a virtual choir has pushed the boundaries, blending virtual music-making with real live performance to create something extraordinary.

Scroll down to see if you featured in any of them!

1. Virtual Choir 3 at the 2012 London Olympic Games

In 2012, the voices of 3746 people from 73 countries were heard by the 4 million people who crossed the Millenium Bridge in London between July and September.

These voices formed part of the World’s Largest 3D Soundscape. This fully immersive sound installation, composed by Martyn Ware and directed by David Bickerstaff, was inspired by the history of the River Thames and included stories from the once disconnected North and South banks. As part of the installation, the choir sang ‘Water Night’ by composer and Virtual Choir 3 Director Eric Whitacre, based on a poem by Octavio Paz.

Uniting singers from around the world with Londoners and global visitors alike amplified the Olympic values of friendship, respect, equality, and inspiration. Visitors to the bridge were even able to influence the soundscape by triggering certain sounds with their feet as they walked, directly connecting them to their virtual performers.

2. The Virtual Choir Games 2020

Speaking of the Olympics, the World Choir Games – otherwise known as the Olympics of Choral Music – was unable to hold their 10th Annual live competition in June 2020. But refusing to cancel the Games entirely, they went online, holding a Virtual Choir Games instead.

Choirs were invited to submit their video entries to the Interkultur video competition, which included multiple different categories. They received 128 submissions from 44 different countries, and prizes were awarded both throughout the week and during the celebratory Opening and Closing Ceremonies streamed online.

The quick thinking of this fantastic organisation made sure that the hard work of these choirs did not go to waste, and even meant that some choirs who might not have been able to fly to Belgium to compete even without the pandemic could now take part.

Watch some of the winning submissions here:

3. The World’s Largest Hallelujah Chorus

In 2016, the 300+ strong Mormon Tabernacle Choir combined with over 2,000 voices from all over the world to record the World’s Largest Hallelujah Chorus.

There was no audition, and absolutely anyone could join in. There were some famous names on the list – including Donny Osmond – and one singer even dressed up as George Frederic Handel himself for his video!

In this remarkable video, you see live and recorded singers standing side by side – connected across thousands of miles.

Scott Barrick, the choir’s general manager explained, “our goal for this virtual choir was to bring together voices from all over the world and demonstrate the power music has to cross cultural and generational boundaries. The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ is iconic, and we are elated that so many people wanted to join us for this amazing experience.”

Watch the moving result here:

4. Virtual Choir 4 at the Coronation Festival Gala, 2013

Ever wish you could sing at Buckingham Palace? Well, these virtual choir performers went one better – seeing their voices heard by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself, in the famous Palace Gardens as part of the 60th Anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.

In a celebration of the previous 60 years of performing arts, Virtual Choir 4 premiered their new release ‘Fly to Paradise’ composed by Eric Whitacre, alongside live singers from the Bach Choir, and Grammy Award-winning soprano Hila Plitmann.

This premiere, made up of nearly 6,000 singers from over 100 countries, was watched by the 6,500 strong live audience, and the 3.5 million people who tuned in to watch the Gala on television. This kind of virtual performance not only brings choral music to people all over the world but also gives them a chance to take part.

5. World of Color Honor Choir at Disneyland Winter Dreams Show

The World of Color Winter Dreams Show at Disneyland California is a dazzling spectacle of visual effects, animated projections, dancing fountains, and colourful light shows.

Specially created scenes with everyone’s favourite Disney characters are projected onto a 120m-long mist screen (yes, that’s a screen made of water!), while 1,200 musical fountains shoot water over 60m into the air. All accompanied by music, fire, lasers, and watched by the 60,000 people who come to the park each day.

Which young person wouldn’t want to be a part of this incredible event? Well, 1,473 lucky singers representing all 50 American States were able to see their faces dance on that mist screen and hear their voices ring out among the fountains. Singing a newly commissioned piece ‘Glow’ by Eric Whitacre, this virtual choir got to open the show and delight live audiences throughout the Winter Holiday season.

Watch this unique spectacle here:

6. Stay at Home Choir on Live with Carnegie Hall: Global Ode to Joy

When a year-long global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday led by conductor Marin Alsop was cancelled due to the pandemic, the project went online instead.

This episode, streamed live to people in their homes in December 2020, aimed to inspire joy in all those watching. It featured interviews and performances from some of the world’s most highly respected artists, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, violinist Daniel Hope, and former US poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.

The culmination of the episode sees The Stay at Home Choir singing the epic finale of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. The energy of the orchestra recording the music live combined with the wall of sound and videos provided by the choir’s singing certainly inspired joy in the viewers.

We may not have been able to see our video played in Carnegie Hall in person, but tuning in at the same time as everyone else around the world to watch this live episode featuring our own Ode to Joy was incredibly special.

Watch the episode in full here:

7. Virtual Youth Choir at the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games

The first-ever Virtual Youth Choir premiered at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games alongside the National Youth Choir of Scotland. The group, made up of 2,292 singers all under the age of 18 and representing 80 different countries, appeared in front of 40,000 people in the famous Celtic Park Stadium and 9 million people watching at home on television.

Virtual Choir creator Eric Whitacre teamed up with the world’s leading children’s organisation, UNICEF, to create this inspirational project to spread the message ‘put children first’, and supporting UNICEF’s work to help save and change the lives of children around the world.

With children as young as two-years-old contributing, and many countries represented by just one singer, this was an important example of children wanting to come together with their fellow singers to spread a message of togetherness. A message that the audience are clearly moved by, as they watch spellbound – amazed at the vision and sound in front of them.

We may not have been able to see our video played in Carnegie Hall in person, but tuning in at the same time as everyone else around the world to watch this live episode featuring our own Ode to Joy was incredibly special.

Watch the performance here:

8. Virtual Flashmob by La Caixa Foundation

La Caixa foundation has run participatory choral concerts for over 25 years in many cities around Spain. The most popular of these is Handel’s Messiah, where audience members get to stand up and join in for popular choruses such as the Hallelujah Chorus.

Much like our process here at The Stay at Home Choir, participants prepare over several weeks together. They learn musical and technical tips from the internationally renowned conductor, before getting to join in with the equally famed choir, orchestra, and soloists on the night.

But this past year, loyal audiences have desperately missed their chance to join in with the rousing chorus, so La Caixa launched the #YoCanto (I Sing) initiative, inviting people to submit video recordings of their vocal part to be made into this stunning video.

We get the effect of a virtual flashmob. As people walk around the church, completely unaware of what’s about to happen, you hear the sound of singers warming up, then suddenly the virtual performers appear projected onto the walls and ceiling, singing the famous chorus. As children point, amazed, more and more singers join, followed by a whole live orchestra. It’s a glorious example of how beautiful the mixture of real-life and virtual music-making can be.

Watch the video here:

9. Virtual Choir 5 featured in Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe

In an extraordinary collaboration between award-winning artists and scientists, this film tells the mesmerising story of the Hubble Deep Field Space Telescope in a stunning 30-minute collection of imagery and music.

Against a soundtrack of 8,000 singers aged 4 to 87 from 120 countries, the film features images taken of an almost impossibly small area of sky – just one 24-millionth of it, to be precise. Previously thought to be an empty area of space, this telescope was able to look deeper to reveal over 3,000 galaxies never before seen, each one containing hundreds of billions of stars.

Following the film’s release, each singer’s voice travelled around the world, appearing alongside these stunning images in galleries, museums, arts festivals, and science events. What a way to celebrate the wonders of science in helping us understand the universe, and the power of art in helping us find our place within it.

Watch the film here:

10. The Stay at Home Choir Global Singalong ‘The Armed Man’

In 2020, 5,000 of our members representing 74 countries recorded movements of Sir Karl Jenkins epic work ‘The Armed Man’. The result was streamed in September with viewers at home joining in, creating an enormous online event marking 20 years since the work’s premiere.

Containing both live and virtual elements, the stream combined footage from A Concert for Peace held in Berlin in 2018 with the three movements recorded after ten weeks of hard work by our SAHC members. There were interviews and exclusive appearances by special guests such as Sir Karl Jenkins himself and members of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, who sang at the world premiere of the work in 2000.

But perhaps one of the most unique elements was the invitation to sing along with the Sanctus and Agnus Dei movements at home. With no barriers to entry, a score free to download from the internet, and the ability to follow Sir Karl conducting on the screen, we were able to offer the chance to combine live and virtual music-making to anybody who wanted to join in.

At a time when we had all been separated for many months, singing along with these massed voices knowing you were singing the same thing at the same time as 5,000 people around the world was incredibly powerful.

Watch the full concert here:

Join our next project

If you want to join with singers from all around the globe to meet and learn from your favourite artists and appear in some of the world’s most famous performance spaces, head to our sign up page where you can grab one of the spots for our next project – Rimanti in Pace with I Fagiolini.

Registration is already open, and places are filling up fast. Secure your spot by joining today. Then enjoy our interactive learning process starting from Monday 12th July.

Want to know more about how a project with The Stay at Home Choir works? Head to our website for answers to all your questions.

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Benefits of Joining a Choir during the Pandemic (Yes – even a Virtual Choir!)

Benefits of Joining a Choir during the Pandemic
(Yes – even a Virtual Choir!)

We know singing is good for us. We know that it makes us happy. But these are times like no other. Most of us are juggling more than we ever thought possible. Paddling hard just to stay afloat. “Surely”, you might be thinking, “attending choir practice should be the last thing on our minds?”. Well, you’d be surprised.