Rachel Holt, a singer in the Stay At Home Choir, reflects on the music industry’s rapid digital response to COVID-19, and the silver linings that might come from making music online during isolation.
We are in a weird twilight zone of music making at the moment. From living room concerts, to livestreams, Zoom chats and virtual choirs – it’s both uplifting and thought-provoking to see the instantaneous way in which the music industry has adapted to this new digital arena.
Anyone who takes part in a choir or other ensemble can tell you that making music together is a great form of therapy. I have sung in choirs my whole life, most recently as part of the Covent Garden Chorus in central London. After a successful – and in retrospect incredibly well-timed – concert at the start of March, we were gearing up towards a new term and some exciting projects on the horizon when COVID-19 struck.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and social media was soon flooded with inventive ways in which the music industry was adapting to this new digital space.
As the lockdown hit and one by one gigs were cancelled, offices closed and self-isolation began, the panic and loneliness began to creep in. I knew I could manage without my day-to-day social interactions but I was worried about how I might cope without my ‘weekly therapy’ of singing with others. I shouldn’t have feared. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and social media was soon flooded with inventive ways in which the music industry was adapting to this new digital space.
None, however, are quite like the Stay At Home Choir.
Like so many music initiatives at the moment, the Stay At Home Choir creates virtual ensembles using smartphone footage and audio recordings from its members, stitched together with digital magic to bring the singers ‘together’. The difference is that every project features a different world-class ensemble, who answer questions, help the singers to learn their lines, and ultimately join in the performance. To date, ensembles have included the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The King’s Singers, with Sir James MacMillan, The Sixteen and The Swingles to come in the next few weeks.
Stay at Home Choir performing Vivaldi's Gloria with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sure, it's a project born out of the COVID-19 crisis, but the chance to interact with ensembles you know and love such as The King’s Singers and The Swingles is an experience which is appealing to their fans all over the world - lockdown or no lockdown.
With downloadable resources and simple instructions, over 700 people sent in videos for the latest project, joining with The King’s Singers for a performance of ‘And So It Goes’. For many King’s Singers fans who are not in the UK, this is a valuable experience to interact with a group that they love, even though they live on the other side of the globe.
For online music making, geography is no obstacle. Even once we get back to our local communities of musicians, I still hope to keep in touch with my new global community of singers.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been chatting to singers from all over the world on social media, and connecting with them as we all work together towards the same project. We may not be physically making music together, but hearing the results of so many passionate musicians contributing to this performance lifted my spirits and made me feel part of something amazing.
For online music making, geography is no obstacle. Even once we get back to our local communities of musicians, I still hope to keep in touch with my new global community of singers. For me, this isn’t an either-or, but a wonderful gift which has grown out of the tricky reality of being stuck at home.
I have just recorded my submission for the King’s Singers project and, like hundreds of others, eagerly await the announcement of the next collaboration.
During these weeks stuck at home, digital music making is a lifeline, and I hope, when this is all over, that projects just like this continue to have a life outside of our homes. It has opened my eyes and ears to the power of making music, both in isolation and as part of a huge community all at once. It is something which only we in the 21st century can really experience. And I never, ever want to take that for granted again.
The Stay at Home Choir is a project run by Jamie Wright and Tori Longdon.
Find more ways to connect and make music with others online in our resources section.