COVID-19 won’t keep RWU’s chorus and band from rehearsing

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

Singing or playing an instrument with other people is difficult to do with social distancing, but it’s not impossible. The RWU chorus and band, which normally meets once a week on campus for three hours, have found online alternative methods for learning and performing their individual parts. 

When the university determined students wouldn’t be coming back to campus this semester, a live concert was out of the question. Dr. Joseph Amante, director of RWU Chorus and Chamber Singers, implemented a new plan. After some discussion with several choristers, it was decided that a video recording of three madrigals would be made instead. Each chorus member would record him or herself singing and send the file to Amante, who would use Adobe Premiere CC to put the segments together.

“I’m kind of a techie but the software package is beyond my experience as a music teacher. Still, I think we can make this happen,” Amante said.

“In a way, not only do I end up with something substantial for grading purposes, but the

students get something back that they can post and be proud of.” 

Right now, the chorus has 14 registered students and six club members who will be contributing to this video. One of these individuals is graduating senior CaraMia Costa. This is Costa’s first semester with the choir and being apart from the people in the group has had its challenges. 

“I find it a bit more difficult to learn the music because I don’t have the input of others,” Costa said. “I can’t hear what other people are doing and compare myself to them. I also don’t have people there to tell me that I’m doing something right or wrong.” 

She also reflected on her social experience with the chorus.

“I am a music minor, so I have been a part of various music ensembles and classes on campus,” Costa said. 

“In many of these groups, I have worked with some of the students and professors involved in chorus. I will miss collaborating with other students. There are a lot of really creative and talented students, so I will miss getting to work with them and make music in class and in other ensembles.”

As for the band ensemble, RWU Band Director Douglas McRay Daniels has also altered how his musicians will be working on their music.

“The first goal that I wanted to accomplish was to give students a learning experience that would be worthwhile and meaningful while accomplishing the goals set out by the class, which really is rooted in ensemble playing,” Daniels said.

Daniels mentioned that current limitations such as internet speeds would make it difficult for students to listen to and perform with others over the internet. He thus turned to methods which YouTubers employ when playing multiple instruments in the same video. Each student, therefore, would record themselves playing and the parts would all be combined to create a virtual concert.

“This sounds simple, but it’s not. These musicians have to be extremely precise in their playing,” Daniels said.

Since the beginning of self-quarantining, the ensemble has met twice and the tracks for the students’ recordings will be distributed soon. These tracks produce a metronome click that keeps each musician on the correct timing, which is essential for when the parts are added together.

“Currently I am arranging ‘All of the Lights’ as recorded by Kanye West and Rihanna, which will be performed in a jazz setting,” Daniels said. “We will only release it to the public if we feel like it’s representative of work that represents what we want to achieve. For now, it’s an experiment that seems fun and exciting with lots of learning and playing.”