Creating a Unique Experience
With all in-person barbershop harmony events canceled this summer, including our International Convention and Harmony University, Society staff members got creative. How could we provide an fun and meaningful experience where folks from around the world could participate in the Everyone in Harmony Chorus?
Some of the most influential folks in the a cappella scene were enlisted to bring out the very best in our singers, most of whom were not used to singing in a virtual ensemble.
The 2020 Virtual Everyone in Harmony Chorus was the first virtual chorus project for the Society, and we were unsure how many would sign up. Nearly 700 people registered for some portion of Virtual Harmony University, with 352 of those attendees joining the Virtual Everyone in Harmony Chorus. We had singers from over 10 countries participating in this event alone!
Harmony University is normally held every summer in Nashville, Tennessee. The Barbershop Harmony Society offers many scholarships for attendees, but participants are responsible for covering their travel costs. What made this year’s Virtual Harmony University opportunity special was folks from around the world were able to participate virtually - from the comfort of their home.
“I never would have been able to attend if it had been the usual one week class at a college. It was wonderful having barbershop every night!”
The Virtual Chorus Experience
How did it work?
The Everyone in Harmony Chorus Experience was jam-packed with fierce names from the a cappella and barbershop scene. The chorus was directed by Deke Sharon, who is widely heralded as the “Godfather of Contemporary A Cappella.” He is largely responsible for the current sound of modern a cappella, having created the dense vocal-instrumental sound in college, and subsequently spreading it around the world. Section leaders included After Hours (2018 BHS International Quartet Champion), GQ (BHS members and Sweet Adelines International 2019 third-place bronze medalists), and Hot Pursuit Quartet (BHS members and 2019 Harmony, Inc. Harmony Queens). Singers attended 5 LIVE rehearsals with the director and section leaders.
“The best part about VHU was getting to work with Deke Sharon in the Virtual Everyone in Harmony chorus, and to rehearse alongside my barbershop heroes like GQ, After Hours, and Hot Pursuit! I recorded myself, over and over again to improve my pitch, breathing, vowels, and well... everything! This process for the Everyone in Harmony chorus with hearing yourself is humbling and VERY helpful to grow as a singer!”
Singers were given extensive FAQs to prepare for rehearsals, along with instruction on how to conduct their own audio and recording sessions. They were given two brand new charts and learning tracks: “Into the Unknown” (from Disney's Frozen 2) and “Still the One”, the 70's pop hit by Orleans. An added bonus was a special Q&A session with the arrangers!
“Donny Rose and Deke Sharon were so inclusive, energetic, and exciting, that I couldn't help myself jumping in and trying to sing in the virtual chorus, though it was well above my expertise. Then I experienced barbershop vocabulary in real life so that I could internalize it, and finally learned about the greater barbershop community and was welcome.”
See the finished product!
Into the Unknown (from Frozen 2)
Arr. Deke Sharon and David Wright
Sound Editor: Keegan Eich, Video Editor: Mason Eubank
Hear from the editors!
“One of the toughest challenges was syncing the (video) clips together and rendering them. It was definitely a challenge to make sure hundreds of clips are exactly aligned. What meant the most to me was seeing it all come together. It was an honor to work with BHS and bring people from all over the world together in song.”
-Mason Reed Eubank, video editor
“My biggest challenge was the mere size of participants. My previous virtual choir performance was with my 90-person chorus (the Ambassadors of Harmony). The Virtual Everyone in Harmony Chorus was over double the size! But, the most rewarding part was seeing all the positive comments from participants saying that this was the best part of their quarantine and how they can’t wait to do it again!”
-Keegan Eich, audio mixer
Still the One (by Orleans)
Arr. Deke Sharon and Scott Harris
Sound Editor: Keegan Eich, Video Editor: Joey Buss
Hear from the editors!
"Something that turned out better than I thought was the dance break portion of the video. There were so many great submissions that I couldn’t fit within the time limitations, but every time I watched that section of the video while working on it, I was smiling big.
I also really enjoyed having the creative freedom from the Barbershop Harmony Society to “let me do my thing.” Working on a project of this size was good experience, as it is the largest one I’ve done so far. I also benefitted from some tips by Mason Reed Eubank, who did the video editing for Into the Unknown."
-Joey Buss, video editor