Awesome online singing from Denmark to Australia, and social distancing too!

There are some amazing online singing events happening now around the world: Denmark, Australia, Nashville, etc. I want to highlight a couple examples of that to add brightness to these dark times.

Human beings have an unquenchable desire to live in community. Singing has always been an expression of that. Modern technology has enabled it.

Figure 1: The Sacred Harp Quarantine Chorus

Figure 1: The Sacred Harp Quarantine Chorus

Day 07 of #100DaysToOffload.

1 Harmonia Sacra - a capella four part shape note singing

I sing (the quality is arguable at times). For the past 25 years on-and-off I’ve been singing 4 part a capella hymns in Mennonite circles. It’s a communal thing. You can sing the bass line by yourself, but it’s not the same.

For the past 10 years or so, my family and I have been driving over to Shenandoah Valley 2 or 3 times a year to participate in a few of the annual “sings” that have been happening in the area since Joseph Funk first published Harmonia Sacra in 1832 (in the little town of “Singers Glen”1)

Since we could not have the regular April singing in person, I figured out how to host one on Zoom, based on instructions for leading Chorial Music over Zoom by Jim Daus Hjernøe of the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark

Figure 2: RAMA Vocal Center, Denmark

Figure 2: RAMA Vocal Center, Denmark

Basically, I split out a number of tracks from one of the better sings and rebroadcast the them as guide tracks. Here is a recording of “Dedication Anthem”, a.k.a., “606”, a.k.a. “The Mennonite National Anthem” sung in 4 part harmony by 400 people.

It worked, more or less. There was not the same sense of community as standing right next to other singers, but it let out some our pent up need to sing our favorite joyful songs in a time of uncertainty.

2 “Movers and Shapers”

There is another, larger tradition of shape note singers called Sacred Harp. When looking or examples of how to put together online singings, I came across Sacred Harp Australia, who put up a video of a Fa-So-La “singing school”. Unlike Harmonia Sacra sings, the Sacred Harp singers sit in a square/circle “by parts” (Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano).

The Sacred Harp singers took remote singing to an entirely different level with The Sacred Harp Quarantine Chorus -EASTER ANTHEM - 360° Virtual Singing and Easter Egg Hunt!. This an amazing recording of 331 singers from 37 states, 4 Canadian provences and 11 countries singing a joyful song “together”. This 360 degree video puts you you in the best seat in the house. And here’s how they did it:

3 The pros in Nashville

And then there were the pros in Nashville. The Nashville Studio Singer Community - Virtual Cell Phone Choir - “It Is Well With My Soul” arranged by: David Wise This was a group of professional singers, who indeed looked like they were enjoying being part of the virtual community of singers. They covered the standard hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” which was written by Horatio Spafford in response to the loss of his family when a ship sank.

Figure 3: The Nashville Studio Singer Community - Virtual Cell Phone Choir

Figure 3: The Nashville Studio Singer Community - Virtual Cell Phone Choir

4 Is it well?

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Whatever your faith, I think we can all take a little solace in the human spirit that can’t be contained and overflows into joyous music even at times like these. It is indeed well with my soul.

  1. Alice Parker, associate of the former Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Choir conductor Robert Shaw wrote a play called “Singers Glenn” about Joseph Funk which is staged very 5 years in Singers Glen across the street from his log cabin with descendants in attendance. She has attended many of the performances. ↩︎