#TogetherApart, Barstow Singers Create Online Concert

Using talent, technology and some trouble-shooting, Dr. Josh Markley and The Barstow Singers created an inspiring choir performance together — even while they remain apart.
In January, Dr. Markley and his upper school singers began working on “Dirait-on,” a pensive choral arrangement for accomplished choirs. When the spring concert was canceled because of the campus closure, the group wanted to find a way to share the song with an audience.
“The kids really love the song,” Dr. Markley said. “They wanted to find a way to sing it together.”
Dr. Markley researched virtual choirs during spring break. When students returned to their online classroom, he showed them examples — and the students agreed to try it. The next step was for Dr. Markley to create practice files so students could continue working on their parts from home.
“I created recordings and sang all the parts. For the high soprano, that was really interesting,” Markley laughed. “It’s a good thing I don’t have a dog at home. He would have been howling.”
He also created piano tracks for each part, and recorded himself conducting so the students could follow his direction.
“I wanted them to have all the right cut-offs and the big crescendos that we’d been working on in class. Some used that, some used the piano and some used the voice tracks to follow along as they recorded themselves.”
The process had its challenges. Audio levels and quality varied depending on whether students used using a webcam, a phone or a video camera. Uploading large files with varying amounts of bandwidth and connectivity also proved problematic.
“We had some trial and error the first two weeks,” Markley said. “We had to figure out how to upload and share and we tried a couple of different apps and strategies. The Google drive seemed to be the fastest way to do that.”
With all the parts shared in the drive, Dr. Markley separated the video and the audio so he could balance the voices and ensure each one was heard equally.
“If I had simply layered all the recordings together, it would have been okay, but there would have been moments when one voice could have overpowered the group, not because of the singing, but because of the recording.”
He used Adobe Creative Suite Audition and Premiere software to edit the audio and video files, then synched them back together, and added animations and graphics to finish the performance. The result is a socially distanced, high quality concert piece that Dr. Markley shared with the astonished singers.
“Most of them were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that sounds so much better than I thought it would. That is so great!’ They were really, really excited and very proud about what they were able to accomplish,” Markley said. “And so was I.”
To watch The Barstow Singers perform “Dirait-on,” by Morten Lauridsen, mastered and edited by Dr. Josh Markley, follow this link.

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