Welcome to Renate's Baton. This blog is mostly for and about my choir, The York Region Community Choir.

But, While I'm holding the baton, I'm in charge. So, if I want to talk about other parts of my life, I will. :)

The choir itself is a community and I'm discovering that we have a lot in common with one another besides our love of music and singing.

When I go off on a tangent, there is always a crowd coming along. Join us!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

YRCC Zooms into February: Monday, February 1st, 2021 Choir for us- no stress

Today, I participated in a workshop offered by Choirs Ontario about Online Rehearsals. The presenter was Antonio Llaca from Carleton University in Ottawa. There were participants from all over Canada and all over the world, about 150 of us. 

It was cool. I think we should consider joining Choirs Ontario.

The presenter is a university professor who has had to learn to teach choral singing online. He reviewed with us some techniques for rehearsals, the role of conductor (I'm not obsolete!) and some of the new technologies.

For now, choirs can only meet online, but we talked about a hybrid approach being the most probable next step, as we gradually get back to real choir. 

We might always have some kind of blended choir experience, alternating between online and in person meeting, and the virtual component could have synchronous and asynchronous elements. 

We could use technology to meet at the same time (synchronous) and we could use technology independently to learn and rehearse on our own (asynchronous). We at the YRCC have been doing that already, so don't be nervous about that. With our recordings on the website, we have always had the capability for asynchronous rehearsing. So, we've already been using technology for years! We now can rehearse online on our own and we can meet together using Zoom. Hopefully soon, we will be able to get together in person. Especially if all 60 of us can't meet at the same time, we could complement our in-person meetings with online activities.

It is quite likely that new technologies developed during this time of virtual meetings and virtual performances will always be useful. So, it's best not to stand on the sidelines today, waiting for things to go back to where we were a year ago. Please join us as we continue to be a choir online!

There was a lot of talk about latency- the delay between broadcast and receipt of data electronically. 
There's that and there's also the different hardware that people use, what kind of equipment people have. 

The professor was not comfortable with questions about what headphones or microphones might be best. His approach was that online choir should be accessible to everyone, and that there shouldn't be requirements for the 'best' equipment. I loved that! 

We can use earbuds with built in microphones, or the very best external mic. We can use built-in cameras or external devices, as long as we have something so that we can see each other and feel connected. He did say that the conductor or instructor should have a good, reliable wifi connection and recommended using an ethernet cable for a steady feed.  

He also said that he asks his students to always have 2 devices, and the second one could be their phone (they always have that on during class anyway-hee hee). 

We use 2 devices so that we can always see all the other people on one and we can look at music on the other. Some of us have a laptop and a phone, others have a desktop and an ipad, any two things are good.

While the presenter's perspective and focus is on students and learning, with choral technique and theory being important elements as well as evaluation and feedback from the professor, there was a lot of good advice for me in the presentation. 

Some of the other participants were also community choir leaders, and they mentioned the difficulty with adult choristers not wanting to participate online. "It makes them cry" is what I saw. It's "very stressful and provokes unexpected emotions." Our presenter said that it was normal, even among his students. 

There is vulnerability in not being in a group. You're on camera, so you feel singled out. 

Some of us love choir because we can hide in the group. We can perform and take part in this musical experience without having a spotlight on us and without evaluation, judgment. 

Online, it might feel like people are watching you, but with us, it's not like that! There are over a dozen of us all at the same time so we're not watching one person. I'm doing my usual gesturing and people are looking at their music, as always. Occasionally, we look up and are comforted that we're all there together. And, we chat together in between songs. As usual, some people chat a lot and others listen more. 

When we sing, nobody is singled out. As usual. So far, we've been singing along with concert recordings. And, we're all on mute! Nobody is listening to you, except the people in your home, maybe. 

We are not planning to make one of those performance recordings where individuals record themselves and the videos and sound recordings are painstakingly synchronized and put together to create a work of art. That's not what we do. 

Please consider joining us if you've been staying away, waiting for things to get back to normal. This is normal now and it will be for a while yet. We're having fun every Monday, singing our choir songs and seeing our choir friends. Join us!

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