How to Host Virtual Rehearsals (as told by barbershoppers)
We spoke to a few folks in our barbershop family who have been using technology to host rehearsals and create the human connection that singing provides for all of us.
Barbershoppers around the world are searching for ways to stay connected to their friends in harmony. There are still so many stories to tell, songs to sing, and tags to ring. Here are some recommendations from fellow barbershoppers.
As you read through, imagine how this could be adapted to your ensemble!
Establish the Why.
Why should you meet virtually? Are you meeting for a rehearsal, fellowship, music education, or a mix?
“My chorus is very close, and it was evident from the many Facebook posts that I saw that they missed each other. Also, I want them to continue to be able to practice and hone the vocal skills we've worked hard to solidify in the past year. This opportunity to provide connection, continuing education, and a venue in which all of my members can still sing and perform, was an invaluable opportunity for us. When we are able to meet again, we can go back and remember what we've learned and worked on at home, so that we don't have to play "catch up" at our next in-person rehearsal.”
“Since we no longer had a concert (we canceled our March 28/29 shows) or Division to prepare for, we decided to switch from a rehearsal to a hang out where we could socialize and check in with our membership.”
“The intent was never to be able to sing together, but just to create a sense of normalcy and return to the routine of rehearsal. We decided to meet up in order to go over future plans and generally send each other love and support while still being separated physically.”
Find the right virtual tools for your ensemble.
“Scenic City is a 60+ member chorus. We are opting to use Facebook Live for our virtual rehearsal (so our members are the only people who can participate). Normally, Scenic City records every rehearsal; the recordings are posted to our private Facebook group. This allows members to participate and ask questions through Facebook comments, which will be monitored during the broadcast. Our choreographer will be able to broadcast live from her home for the choreography portion of the rehearsal.”
Pro tip: See Scenic City Chorus’s rehearsal logistics document in the resources section below.
“Zoom has been used by many of our members for work meetings in the past and seems to work better than other options like Skype. Our Communications Coordinator sent out simple instructions with the Zoom link to the whole chorus, making sure that each member was included and that they were able to log in. A practice session was created immediately preceding the actual meeting in case anyone had technical troubles logging in or enabling/disabling the audio or video.”
“We have been using an app called Band (https://band.us). We use it every week to stream/record rehearsals for members. Some of our members who refuse to get on Facebook have jumped right on Band because they know it's exclusive to our group only. You can post video and mp3 files as well as PDFs, word docs, and pictures, and a calendar function. The plan is for sectionals to be held with Zoom."
Learn and grow.
You had your first virtual rehearsal. Now assess based on your original plans. How did it go? Would you change anything for next time?
“It was really great! Our chorus is so new, just had our 1 year anniversary, and we have had a lot of changes in membership over that year. We are still working on ways to connect and build community, and the Zoom meeting was a great way to do that! We met member’s pets, learned a little bit about one another's hobbies, and checked in on how people were feeling. Our membership wanted to know what they should be doing in regard to the chorus while we are in a shelter in place: We suggested practicing a little every day, reviewing choreography, and doing a deep dive into barbershop YouTube videos. For our future meetings, we decided to have themes - a favorite cocktail, a costume party, etc. We are going to use the time as a show-and-tell to discuss some of the videos that people watched, what they liked/didn't like, and how to move forward as a chorus both culturally and vocally.”
"For our future meetings, we decided to have themes - a favorite cocktail, a costume party, etc. We are going to use the time as a show-and-tell to discuss some of the videos that people watched, what they liked/didn't like, and how to move forward as a chorus both culturally and vocally.”
“Over 80 members tuned in to listen and just be with one another - since singing over video chat is difficult, the call became more of a “mental harmony” experience than “vocal harmony.” We appointed a meeting administrator who monitored access to everyone’s audio so she could mute everyone at once or select who had speaking privileges. Having someone in charge of everyone’s levels made it easy for those who needed to speak to be heard. We will continue to meet up via Zoom weekly.”
“We are still working through how to structure and use the time effectively. We're looking to try a mix of singing, small group work, and educational and presentation opportunities.”
Keep things organized.
“A schedule outlining what will happen in each part of the rehearsal, along with what is expected of members will help keep everyone focused. We provide rehearsal videos so members will be able to participate in vocal warm-ups and choreography by following along at home. For full songs, the most recent rehearsal recording will be broadcast by the director. Members mute themselves and sing along at home, in sync with the recording. Learning track recordings can be used for any songs that don’t have a rehearsal recording. Members will be encouraged to post short videos of themselves during the virtual rehearsal so that members can connect and share.”
Pro tip: see their sample rehearsal schedule outline in the resources section below.
“We weren't singing so we didn't have too many technical difficulties. We are thinking about putting together a choral compilation where each member sings their part with a track in their ear, and then edit them into one larger song featuring all of us. (But) we're still working out the details. If we move forward with singing rehearsals, we will probably need to find a different platform.”
Virtual Rehearsals are more than singing.
“The love and energy that radiates between our chorus members is something truly special. I didn’t know just how much I needed to be connected to my barbershop family until I saw everyone’s tiny faces in their living rooms....I treasure all the friendships and harmonies that are manifested by this lovely “hobby” and can’t wait to be on the other side of this whole event. It does put a lot into perspective and really brought to light just how special this niche art form is.”
“I loved getting to connect with my members and to know that there is still a way to touch their lives through music. And, for me, personally, it was positive and uplifting.”
“We sang through one of our pieces, had PVI’s which are just like private sessions with leaders in the chorus, had small master class sessions in a series we have been doing in the chorus, and we all enjoyed each other’s company until the late hours of Thursday night into Friday morning. Though we cannot meet in person we found a way to meet, connect, sing, enjoy each other’s company, and maybe even learned something about each other we may have not known! I must say that this may have been one of my best nights in barbershop because we were able to have those connections, we were more focused on music and you had to really get used to hearing yourself which is really hard in this setting that you aren’t used to. It was so great and joyful. I felt that this shouldn’t be kept secret and to let all our barbershop friends know that there is a way that we can all still enjoy music and friendship.”
About the Contributors
Thank you to the following barbershoppers for your responses and participation. This wouldn’t have been possible without YOU!
- Jennifer Cooke, Harmony University Faculty, Director of Scenic City Chorus (SAI)
- Kelly Sopher, Operations Goddess, Fog City Harmonia; Barbary Coast Chapter Board Member (BHS)
- Courtney Crowe, Member, Harborlites Chorus
- Dylan Lupo, President, Voices of Gotham
- Dianne Goldrick, Director, Rio A Cappella Chorus
- Tyler Dvorak, Member, Great Northern Union
Compilation by Jernie Talles-Millan, BHS Marketing Assistant