Cumberland Choral Arts is continuing its efforts of making music by adapting to a virtual format during the pandemic. Instead of performing for live audiences this year as they have since 1991, they are using YouTube and Facebook to reach people and present their music.
“In order to operate in the times of COVID, you kind of have to throw dynamite underneath the concept of what a performance organization is and just reconstruct how you see things,” Dr. Michael Martin, artistic director for Cumberland Choral Arts, said. “We moved away from the standard concert method, and we’re going to do these concerts virtually, it's not an easy format to adapt to.”
They are in the process of recording different choral pieces and are enlisting community members to join them for a virtual presentation of the “Hallelujah Chorus" from “Messiah.” The English-language oratorio was written in 1741 by German-born composer George Frideric Handel. Originally written for Easter, “Messiah” has become a Christmas holiday favorite. The CCA performance of the piece is usually delivered to full audiences, many joining in for the “Hallelujah Chorus" — the most widely known section of the composition.
Martin said Cumberland Choral Arts is inviting community members who know the music to submit a video. There is online learning material available to use as a guide, as voices will be synchronized better later.
The Campbellton Youth Chorus will be participating in the “Hallelujah Chorus" as well, said Donna Jo Mangus, artistic director of the Campbellton Youth Chorus, affiliate of the Cumberland Choral Arts.
All the videos will be compiled by the director and assistant director, mixing video and audio and synchronizing all the pieces to make the finished product, Mangus said.
Martin said he had been working on new technology since last year that allowed them to do a series of projects virtually. Some of the challenges with going virtual have been getting the synchronization right and getting the rights to upload those things on the internet, he said.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been doing, trying to navigate technology and stay relevant in the eyes of people who would want to come and watch us sing,” Martin said.
The organization has two concerts planned for the next year, a women composer concert in March celebrating Women’s History Month and suffrage, as well as a “Tour of the World” themed concert in May displaying music from different cultures.
Martin said he might blend the two but teaching them in a virtual format will be a challenge and may affect how the timeline will work out.
“We are going to have a series of things uploaded to our social media that people can watch on their time,” he said. Martin plans to have next year’s scheduled finalized over the holiday season.
The Campbellton Youth Choir hosts four concerts a year with children aged 9-14. It is open to all, regardless of their schooling situation.
Mangus said they will be posting their songs virtually to the Cumberland Choral Arts handle at www.youtube.com/channel/UCcxVHG97aIEIGP_645K11DQ
Going virtual has given young singers a chance to learn how to collaborate with other interested singers in the area, she said.
The youth choir is an opportunity for young singers to perform in a group and make music together for the shared experience, to have appreciation for the song and lyrics, and the beautiful melodies, wider range of dynamics, there's nothing like it when you're a singer, Mangus said.
“I think the artistic community sees relevance for any kind of ensemble that’s part of our community especially now that COVID has hit, it brings us together and it's so important and music just answers that equation,” Martin said.
Mangus and Martin both encourage anyone with a singing talent to participate virtually, to strengthen the community of singers.
“As we become technologically advanced and have every reason in the world to stay away from one another but that's not the human condition and I feel so strongly about this,” Martin said. “Even before COVID, we could find so many things that were just disposable means of entertainment that you could just come do and leave, but there's nothing of longevity, but here we are and all those means of entertainment are closed down or regulated but here we are, still singing and making music together.”
For more information on submitting a video for the “Hallalujah Chorus," the Cumberland Choral Arts and Campbellton Youth Choir, visit https://cumberlandchoralarts.org.
Pictured above: Dr. Michael Martin (left ) is the Artistic Director for Cumberland Choral Arts. Martin and the CCA are working to offer virtual performances that audiences can view online.
(Photo courtesy Cumberland Choral Arts)
Pictured below: Cumberland Choral Arts is encouraging members of the communty to submit videos of themselves singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah," to be inlcuded in the virtual performance. (Photo courtesy Cumberland Choral Arts)