How the Music is Made During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life for everyone, including church musicians. Our choirs have not been able to gather in person for rehearsal or services since early March, so the singers and I have had to learn new ways (and new technology) to make music at St. Mary’s!

Here’s what we do each week to provide music for St. Mary’s worship.

1. I choose a hymn or other piece of vocal/choral music after reading the Scripture lessons and conferring with Ann about her sermon topic.

2. Copy the printed music and mark dynamics, breaths, unison or parts, etc

3. Scan and email the music with instructions to the singers (either section leaders or the entire choir)

4. Record a reference track on the piano or organ

5. If the piece is for section leaders only, I set up a project on the Acapella app and record on my I-phone (Acapella only works on Apple, not Android). I send my recording to the first singer who records their part and then sends it on to the next singer. When the last person has recorded, they send it back to me and I edit it for balance. It usually takes 3-4 days for everyone to record.

6. If the hymn is for the entire choir, I record an audio reference track either with the church’s sound system or with Andrew’s assistance on his computer. I send the mp3 file to the choir along with the score. Each singer listens to the reference track on one device and, at the same time, records their voice on another device.

7. The individual singers’ recordings are emailed to me and I upload them to GarageBand (audio editing software) and begin lining up the tracks and editing for balance, cutoffs, dynamics, etc (very time-consuming!). This entire project usually takes about a week.

8. Once a project is edited and saved as an mp3 file, I upload it to Google Drive and share with Ann so she can embed it in the Sunday morning slides for the Zoom service. I also email the texts to include on the slide with the recording.

This process is repeated for each piece of music that is shared during a Sunday service. I’m immensely grateful to Andrew Heintz, who has spent many hours setting up equipment, recording piano and organ music, and offering his expertise about microphones and editing software. Jeff Bonner-Stewart has also been very helpful with using the church’s sound system. Many thanks to the section leaders who have made numerous recordings these past months and to all the St. Mary’s choir members who have bravely learned to record their voices. The choirs continue to meet virtually on Zoom on Thursday evenings.

We will keep calm and sing on!

– Kirsten