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17,572 Singers From 129 Countries Joined Together To Perform In The Largest Ever Virtual Choir

17,572 Singers From 129 Countries Joined Together To Perform In The Largest Ever Virtual Choir

Moved by the breadth of the pandemic and effect on society, one of the world's most performed composers, Eric Whitacre, composed a new piece especially for his Virtual Choir - "Sing Gently."

17,572 singers from 129 countries, aged 5-88, recorded their videos to be combined to form Virtual Choir 6. Together they found strength in the simple, collective initiative of the project and saw it as a way to not only replenish from within but also to offer hope and relief for the sadness and suffering of others.

The film will premiere on YouTube/VirtualChoir Sunday, July 19 at 10:30am PDT.

"With everyone unexpectedly far apart from each other I found myself thinking about the virtues of empathy, community and service, and a new Virtual Choir felt like a deeply human way to address all of those virtues. I tried as best I could to keep the lyrics of 'Sing Gently' straightforward and unadorned, to simply say what I felt needed to be said." -Eric Whitacre

This marks Whitacre's largest Virtual Choir to date since his first more than 10 years ago. It is a testament to diversity, accessibility and inclusivity, and much more than a musical project; it's a community.To make Virtual Choir 6, Whitacre and his managers & producers at Music Productions teamed-up with two organizations that share their commitment to expand access to the performing arts: the Colburn School and The NAMM Foundation. Rising to the technical and creative challenge of combining 17,000+ audio and video files is the Tony & Olivier award-winning 59 Productions (film-makers) and BAFTA-winning, Floating Earth (audio engineers).

Written, filmed and created during lockdown, the website for Virtual Choir 6 was built with attention to accessibility:

  • No cost to join.
  • Materials provided in multiple formats (AV and audio; online and for download as an alternative to poor streaming connections).
  • Materials for singers who wanted to learn by ear rather than read sheet music.
  • Braille sheet music for the blind and visually impaired
  • American Sign Language interpretations for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Workshops for those with reduced lung capacity hosted by Ashley Ballou-Bonnema - a professional vocalist and voice teacher living with cystic fibrosis.
  • Resources for those with physical and psychological disabilities including autism, ADHD, EDD, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
  • A support network for thousands of individuals, some of whom initially felt anxious about the work involved both technically and musically, or self-conscious about their performance.

As part of Virtual Choir 6, Whitacre ran online rehearsals and created ThinkTank - a body of material from educators and performers, including live and pre-recorded sessions with:

  • Leading educators to celebrated performers on how to warm up your voice and guided rehearsals on "Sing Gently."
  • Leading laryngologist Dr. Reena Gupta on how the voice works and how to take care of it.
  • Singer Joan Beal on how breath exercises calm anxiety.
  • Charles Anthony Silvestri with a mini-masterclass on writing lyric poetry.
  • Nathaniel Zeisler, Colburn's Dean for Community Initiatives, with career development advice for artists.
  • And interviews with musician Jacob Collier, composers John Powell and Jeff Beal, and Dr. Daisy Fancourt (University College London: Institute of Epidemiology & Health).

"Virtual Choir 6 represents some of the best of humanity - a huge global community, supporting one another in all manner of ways through this difficult time, joining their voices in a beautiful new piece from Eric, 'Sing Gently.' It's a privilege to have provided the means for people from 129 countries to come together with a common goal, and to work with the teams who have undertaken the huge task of taking the audio and video to create a legacy for this moment." Claire Long (Exec. Producer, Music Productions)

Research undertaken in 2018 as part of a collaborative study with Whitacre and University College London into virtual cultural experiences, showed that singing in a Virtual Choir boosts participants' self-esteem, reduces feelings of social isolation, creates a strong sense of personal agency and promotes better mental health.

"Sing Gently" was written in April 2020 for choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and piano. The piano track was recorded by Sam Glicklich, a student at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. The copyright is administered by Boosey and Hawkes and the sheet music will be available from Hal Leonard later in 2020.

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