November 30, 2020
“Going digital” is part of the pandemic-era remote-performance environment, but on the plus side (so to speak), it allows for minute accounting. For example:
iSing Silicon Valley’s upcoming annual holiday concert, “[email protected],” has been prepared with 613 audio tracks and 592 videos recorded at home and submitted by the 215 girls of iSing and by guest artists. Every iSing girl who started the season with remote learning was provided with a high-quality mic to use for rehearsals and audio recording.
Further record-keeping: “iSing singers will have spent 203 hours and practiced 1,345,652 notes in Zoom classes; the longest distance an audio track traveled is 5,995 miles.” Can you imagine in the Before Times how 1.3 million-plus notes might have been counted? Let’s hear it for Digital!
“[email protected]” — at 4:30 p.m. PT on Dec. 19, on the iSing YouTube channel — features the iSing chorus, soprano Angel Blue, the Amaranth Quartet, members of One Found Sound, collaborative pianist Jungmee Kim, and harpist Jieyin Wu. Among soloists from the chorus is Mia Hamilton, “honored to possibly be someone’s introduction to iSing.” The virtual event is free of charge and registration is available through iSing’s website.
True to the chorus’s distinguished record, “[email protected]” features a varied program that includes challenging contemporary works — among them Kim André Arnesen’s “Et Misericordia” (with Angel Blue), “O Salutaris” by Ēriks Ešenvalds, “One December Bright and Clear” arranged by Mack Wilberg (with the Amaranth String Quartet), and “A New Year Carol” by Benjamin Britten, for treble voices and harp (with Jieyin Wu).
“The biggest challenge during the pandemic has been to seek new ways not only to make music together but to continue to pursue artistic excellence and bond as a musical community through the act of musicmaking, even while we can’t stand, breathe, and sing next to one another,” says Jennah Delp Somers, iSing co-founder and artistic director.
“But the iSing artistic team and iSing singers are always up for a challenge. We’ve decided to see this time of being apart as an opportunity to focus on the development and the contributions of each individual voice — and to master recording technology.”
Somers also finds the silver lining: “One of the most beloved of iSing’s traditions, two performances of our annual holiday concert at Mission Santa Clara, inevitably sell out. This makes it difficult for us to introduce ourselves to new audience members. With the virtual concert this year we can welcome an unlimited number of listeners from near and far.”
There is no performing organization unscathed by the pandemic, but choirs, including that of these young girls in Silicon Valley, received an exceptional challenge. Near the beginning of the worldwide crisis, tragedy struck in Washington state, when 61 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale came to the evening practice at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church. As reported by the Associated Press and published in Live Science:
A COVID-19 superspreader unknowingly infected 52 people with the new coronavirus at a choir practice in Mount Vernon in early March, leading to the deaths of two people, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finds.
The choir practice happened on March 10, roughly two weeks before the state’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee issued the March 23 “stay home, stay healthy” executive order, which barred social gatherings and nonessential travel as a way to stem COVID-19 infections.
While the choir members took a few precautions at the practice, such as not hugging or shaking hands, these measures fell short of protecting them from the virus. If anything, this event shows “the importance of physical distancing, including maintaining at least six feet between persons, avoiding group gatherings and crowded places, and wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain during this pandemic,” according to the report.
The resulting nationwide ban on in-person chorus rehearsals and performances ended the iSing season, just as the choir released its debut album. The recording, created at Skywalker Sound, is, Here I Stand; it includes commissioned works by Adam Schoenberg, Daniel Elder, Pinkzebra, and Menlo School choir director Karen Linford, whose setting of the speech by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai gave the album its title.
iSing brings together 1st through 12th grade singers in Silicon Valley, offering them rigorous musical and vocal training and has received recognition on national and international stages. Recent awards include the Grand Prize in the 8th International Robert Schumann Choral Competition (2018) and Chorus America’s Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (2018). iSing has also enjoyed collaborations with musical pioneer Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble and the renowned vocal ensembles Voces8 and Cappella SF.