Recently, a fellow board member (AMH), commented, “If you’d asked me four years ago ‘What will you definitely do senior year?’ I would have confidently answered ‘Go to class’.” If you’d asked me four years ago, “What will you definitely do senior year?” I would have said “Sing in choir.”
Both of us turned out to be drastically wrong. AMH is learning remotely, not walking the cobblestone streets of Cambridge or sitting in seminars with her fellow Harvardians, and I’m in my apartment, singing in my room by myself instead of in a performance hall with large groups of people. In fact, the closest I come to choir these days is running rehearsals for our virtual Ruddigore project from my dimly lit basement.
It takes a special group of people to willingly spend even more hours on Zoom and Facetime when it seems like every class, event, and other obligation is online, and the Ruddigore cast & orchestra are just that special. It’s been a joy to get to hear their voices in rehearsal and as we started the editing process for their final recordings this week–we know you’ll love hearing them just as much when we’ve finished.
Although their voices are beautiful, what I appreciate most of all about the Ruddigore group (and the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players more generally) is our ability to have fun together. We’ve gotten used to seeing each other’s faces on a screen instead of in person and keeping up our witty banter (well, we think it’s witty, anyway) in Zoom chats.
However, it’s less easy to translate group music rehearsals to a virtual format–because of the current limitations of technology (and the way individual internet signals are directed all over the globe), it’s not possible to sing in sync with one another. It ends up sounding like a horrifying cacophony of everyone trying to both stay in time and listen to each other, and no one wants that.
From a music director perspective, that means our rehearsals this year have been more…silent than usual. When we’ve rehearsed our group numbers, all but one person have to be muted for us to sing “together,” so cast members take turns bravely singing in front of everyone, while the others sing along from their respective homes, unheard by the rest of us. The cast has MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, tracks that include the piano reduction of the full score so that they could practice for their recording alone, and so they can play it while they sing aloud for everyone in rehearsal. We’ve relied more heavily than ever on our trusty producer google drive to hold part tracks (recordings of each individual line to practice with), notes about rehearsal, sheet music, piano tracks, and everyone’s audio and video recordings for editing purposes. (As a side note, if you want any of our practice materials for your own amusement or singing along to G&S in your home, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
I know I can’t wait until the day when it’s safe for HRG&SP shows to crowd into a room in the Lowell Lecture Hall basement and music directors to plunk out notes while everyone gathers around the piano to sing together, and to come see the wonderful productions the classes after us will put on, but I also realize that longing for that tends to make us fall into bittersweet nostalgia, so I’ve also been trying to keep an eye out for things that are positive about our virtual recording projects. We’ve been able to further our record-keeping efforts, maintaining materials digitally instead of our physical storage spaces; we’ve created comprehensive accompaniment tracks and practice tracks for all the shows I’ve music directed for HRG&SP that can be used in the future & have figured out productive ways to organize them now that Google Drive really matters (this is not sponsored content!) We’ve bene able to reconnect with organization alumni and current undergrads who are spread across the world and with whom we might have lost touch otherwise; we’ve utilized the strengths within our community by encouraging cast members to get involved with the production side by coaching acting, helping create visuals for video recording, and editing video and audio into a final product. Although a virtual semester full of virtual theater pales in comparison to our treasured times spent in the Agassiz theater surrounded by friends hard at work, we have certainly picked up some useful knowledge that we can employ when it’s safe to gather together in Radcliffe Yard again.