High school chorus students in Narragansett and South Kingstown are staying in tune and providing a much-needed lift in spirits by taking their performances online.
The Narragansett High School Advanced Treble Chorus created a virtual choir performance of “Never One Thing” (viewable at youtu.be/2ETSUge0dvE) despite not being able to perform its spring concert.
“Even quarantine can’t keep us from making music together,” director Sarah Prickel-Kane said. The video has more than 1,500 views on YouTube.
“We do plan to have another virtual performance with our full 50-voice Concert Chorus before the end of the school year. We are all devastated that we won’t be returning to school, but I feel fortunate that we are able to rehearse virtually and to create a virtual choir product like this video,” Prickel-Kane said.
South Kingstown High School students put together an online performance last month that drew wide praise from the community. The School Committee got a look at the performance on YouTube at its April meeting via Zoom.
“This was supposed to be on our spring concert but we were obviously unable to present that,” chorus director Ryan Muir said. “So my first thought was how to find a creative way to get this out to the community, and this is how we did it.”
More than 20 members of the eSKape Vocal Ensemble at the school performed “Hymn of Acxiom,” with the students visible and separately singing from their own homes. It’s online at youtu.be/YZ6vIjDdJ04.
“It took some figuring out and programs to learn,” Muir said. “It took a really long time, but we had a performance. These guys thrive on their performances, they can’t wait for their families to clap for them.”
Muir also said the video has been viewed almost 20,000 times across all platforms, and shared 750 times. “That doesn’t happen to all the choir videos,” he said.
This week, eSKape released a virtual performance of the jazz piece “Do You Wanna Know What I Want,” also on the music department’s YouTube channel, which it was supposed to do live in concert. Musician friends of Muir’s from around the country performed the backing track for the voices, he said.
For local students, music has been a large part of coping with life in quarantine, or under a stay-at-home directive. Schools remain closed statewide, although remote classes are in session.
“Whether it be singing with choir and treble choir, or listening to my uplifting playlist to keep me positive, music is my go-to to keep my spirits up,” Narragansett chorus student Erin McCaffrey said.
Through Zoom chats, e-mails, Facetime calls and texts she’s been able to stay connected with everyone. “Granted it’s not the same as physically being in the same space as the person when in school, but video chats are better than not seeing anybody at all,” she said.
The chorus is working on a song called “One Voice” by Ruth Moody, and practices weekly.
“It’s hard not to be learning this new music in person with some of my best friends but we work just as hard to produce virtual choirs,” McCaffrey said.
She’s gotten lots of positive feedback about the virtual performance.
“I’ve had teachers email me personally saying that they were moved to tears by our piece ‘Never One Thing,’ and my grandmother, who’s recovering from some health issues, said that it brightened her day and made her feel a lot better knowing that we’re not stopping just because school did.”
Narragansett High School senior Juhree Casey said coping with the pandemic has been harder than expected.
“One of the main things that is keeping me sane is music, especially having Zoom classes with the Advanced Treble Choir even if we’re not singing together, just being able to see everyone and hear everyone is really nice,” Casey said.
In addition to staying connected through Zoom classes, “We have also all been texting and updating each other with things that are going on in each others lives which is always nice-since we can’t all talk in person this is the next best thing,” Casey added.
The time at home has also given the students an opportunity to try new things musically.
“Since I have had extra time on my hands I have been practicing some new singing techniques by going to YouTube and looking up voice lesson videos and practicing different things like voice placement or tone,” Casey said. “Not only that but again since I’ve had so much free time I’ve been able to practice much more than I did before this all started, which has definitely helped with my stress and anxiety from this whole situation.”