Although the CDC guidelines for mask-wearing and in-person gatherings are changing rapidly, many choirs still find themselves navigating between the in-person and online worlds. Some ensembles have been excited to find an audience beyond their local community because of virtual choirs and live-streaming performance opportunities. Other choirs are excited to recruit new singers via online platforms or take rehearsals online when inclement weather or other events make it necessary to do so.
However, if we're really honest about it, figuring out how to do virtual rehearsals and performances has required a steep technology learning curve for many people. While online tech companies have worked hard to keep up with the demand for user-friendly virtual tools, the average user doesn't always find it easy to adapt to them for personal use or choir rehearsals.
Suppose your choir is planning to continue using technology for the foreseeable future. In that case, you may be looking for tech tools and tips to enhance the virtual experience for choir members and your audience. We've taken some time to compile a list of various tools that you might want to try to keep your virtual rehearsals and performances rolling into 2022.
Online Streaming Resources
If you're looking for opportunities to Livestream your rehearsals or performances, these online platforms are popular:
- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube Live – Users can live stream events, gatherings, and performances while viewers watch from a phone, tablet, computer, or connected TV. Audiences can share reactions in real-time.
- Spotify & Apple Music – Create a streaming account for your organization and live stream your performances and post playlists for listeners to enjoy. Audience members can interact in real-time and continue to replay tracks and past performances they enjoy.
- Zoom - Not only does Zoom serve as a rehearsal tool, but it can also be used for event streaming and audience engagement. You’ll want to make sure to check the cap on the number of participants and determine whether you need to upgrade before using this platform for live performances.
Mixing & Editing
Suppose your choir is planning to continue to do virtual choir performances or include mixed audio and video recordings as part of your audience offerings. In that case, these highly-rated tools will come in handy.
Free Audio Mixing Tools
- Garage Band (Mac Only) – Garage Band software allows users to record instruments or use the library of tools provided to create and mix multiple layers of tracks into a single cohesive performance.
- Audacity – This open-source audio editor platform is ideal for choirs wanting to record and mix live audio. Audacity has a reputation as being an easy-to-use audio mixing tool for beginners.
- Pro Tools First – This free version of Pro Tools offers users the ability to mix 16 simultaneous tracks. The paid version allows up to 128 tracks.
Paid Audio Mixing Tools
- Reaper is a robust audio production application that allows users to create complete multi-track audio recordings with MIDI recording, editing, and process.
- Pro Tools – This software offers comprehensive but straightforward audio mixing and editing solutions. The full version includes automation, sound effects, and digital processing features.
- Logic Pro (Mac Only) – With everything you need for audio design, mixing, and mastering, this platform is ideal for large-scale performance editing.
Free Video Editing Tools
When you want to add a visual element to your audio recordings, these tools can help you create a synced performance.
- iMovie (Mac Only) – This easy-to-use software allows the user to cut and edit videos, music, and graphics with the touch of a finger without affecting the original files.
- OpenShot – This open-source video editor has a user-friendly interface that allows the user to create videos, films, and animations.
- WeVideo – WeVideo is a cloud-based video editor that works with the most popular web browsers. This platform allows you to create professional-looking videos, podcasts, and more.
Paid Video Editing Tools
- Adobe Premiere Elements – This beginner-level tech tool gives users an easy start in video editing by providing limited functionality but the same professional outcome as other Adobe tools.
- CyberLink PowerDirector – CyberLink PowerDirector can be used to create professional-looking movies and slideshows that can be emailed, burned to disc, or uploaded online. This platform offers three different editing modes for various project types.
- If you're looking for heavy-hitting video editors for your choir performance projects, Davinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro (Mac Only), and Adobe Premiere Pro are some top options.
Note: Your Computer May Get Bogged Down
The larger your mixing and editing project, the more difficult it is for your computer to process everything. Using a small personal computer to edit all of your videos may not be the most practical option since video and audio mixing require a lot of power and RAM (computer memory) to get the job done.
Hire Someone to Help!
If these tech tools and resources are overwhelming, hiring someone to help is ok! It's no secret that audio and video editing to create a quality product can require hundreds of hours and a lot of expertise. Suppose your choir is all about making recordings and creating a fun digital performance, but the editing side is too much to handle. In that case, professional video and sound editors could be an excellent investment (and a huge time-saver) for your choir.
I want to take a moment to give great credit to Kathleen Hansen (San Diego Chorus of SAI & San Diego Women's Chorus) for compiling a comprehensive list of virtual choir resources. You can find her complete document here.
Copyright Permissions for Virtual Performances
While the virtual space is ideal for providing entertainment and connecting with audiences worldwide, there is one crucial thing that all choirs must do before posting any performances of their choral works: get permission to perform, live stream, and post replays of performances.
Music in the Public Domain
Of course, any works in the public domain may be performed and posted without issue. How do you know if it's public domain? According to the Cornell University Library:
- Works are considered under copyright for the life of the author/composer plus 70 years.
- If a work is anonymous or the death date of the author/composer is unknown, the copyright is valid for 120 years from its creation.
Copyrights & Permissions
Just like you want to get paid for the work you do at your job, artists want to get paid for their creative work! Copyright is in place so that artists can earn recognition (and royalties) for their work to make this world a better place. If you plan to perform pieces that are still protected under copyright, there are several steps to take to ensure that you can publicly perform your songs, even if that's on a live stream.
Like YouTube, some of the larger streaming platforms have negotiated to have copyrighted music streamed on their platform, but the list of approved music and permissions is constantly in flux. You can find helpful information on this topic on the GALA Choruses' Streaming Choral Concerts page.
Barbershop Harmony Society also has a helpful three-step guide for determining how to get permissions to live stream performances.
Step 1: Determine the Copyright Holders on Your Songs
Step 2: Select Your Live Stream Platform
Step 3: Secure a Synchronization License for Each Song You Plan to Perform
You can find the Barbershop Harmony Society's 3-Step Copyright Checklist for live streaming here.
Permission for Programming New Music
Especially if you plan to program new music by up-and-coming or current composers, copyright is a critical piece of the pie. Composer Abbie Betinis has a great Conductor's Flow Chart for New Music Programming to help choral leaders determine the steps for copyright and licensing of new music for performances.
Getting Outside Help with Copyright Licensing
For some choirs, checking with performing rights organizations such as ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), or SoundExchange can be helpful. These organizations find and compensate artists entitled to payment for their performed works.
Another option that may benefit your choir is working with a record label like Naxos. A record label can help independent groups and artists produce and distribute their music and manage rights payments more efficiently and effectively.
Note for Directors
Many Choral Directors have been overwhelmed as they have had to step into more roles during the pandemic. For example, they may be acting as director, technology guru, new member recruiter, and video performance coordinator. If you are a director of a chorus, the most important thing you can do, no matter the size of your organization, is delegate and ask for help. Be honest with your choir about your technology needs or any other assistance you might require. It has never been more apparent than during this pandemic that sharing the load with your choir members is the best way to encourage participation, allow people with special skills to shine, and ensure that no one person is overloaded. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Set Realistic Goals
Finally, it's essential to manage expectations and set realistic goals for your choir performances. There is no shame in saying "no" to a virtual choir or live-streamed performance if it's just not feasible for where you are at this moment in time. It's more important to create a sense of camaraderie, sing great music from your living room, and, when the time is right, perform together in person again like we used to. Don't give up. We've come this far, and we can keep going!
What are your organiation's preferred tech tools for Livestreaming performances in 2022? Let us know in the comments!
"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." – Jimmy Dean
Amanda Carroll is a former middle school chorus and general music teacher in North Carolina. She is a member of Carolina Style Chorus and Sweet Adelines International and is a non-performing member of Womansong of Asheville. She has Master of Music and Master of Public Administration degrees from Appalachian State University. Her background includes singing with large and small ensembles, as well as solo work and teaching private lessons. Amanda is passionate about creating meaningful concerts and connecting with the community through performance.