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Student filmmakers tap Vocal Revolution for soundtrack

Student filmmakers tap Vocal Revolution for soundtrack

Emerson College students working on a thesis film needed male singers for their soundtrack—and found that Barbershoppers love singing four bars at at time.

Seth Maislin, Denis Yudin, Jeremy Marcus, Alex Park, Dave Lyczkowski, Dee Dinjian, Anand Sitaram, Dan Marshall
Seth Maislin, Denis Yudin, Jeremy Marcus, Alex Park, Dave Lyczkowski, Dee Dinjian, Anand Sitaram, Dan Marshall

The Hare tells the story of a Jewish man trying to decide which of two men on opposing sides of the Russian civil war he can trust to help him find his son who went missing in the pogroms. Dan Marshall, a consultant on the project, got a tip that VR could be a source of singing talent.

Coincidentally, we had just gone over the story of Hanukkah in a chorus rehearsal as we learned a brand-new in-house arrangement celebrating that holiday and commemorating the historic struggles that Jews have faced. A group of five chorus guys jumped at the chance to be a part of something unique.

Most of the pieces, composed and arranged by Alex Yewon Park, were wordless chants only a few measures long, not too different from learning a tag. The fun challenge was the final piece, the lyrics for which were an original four-line poem in Russian written by the film's director, Denis Yudin.

Given the short turnaround time and the schedule (right after Thanksgiving), we could only assemble some of the singers at each of two outside rehearsals in which to learn the foreign pronunciation and the notes (we even had to Skype someone in due to traffic!). On the day of recording, we assembled in a studio set up inside a converted barn at the Crane family residence in West Boylston, MA; the family contributed other instrumental and vocal talent to the film. The male vocalists practiced for the first time as a full group with Dan and with Denis, who speaks Russian natively. We also watched rough cuts of the movie and listened to well-known Russian choral groups like the Red Army Choir for inspiration.

After the musicians laid down their instrumental tracks, the vocalists got set up with mics and headphones and did several takes under Alex's direction. For most of us barbershoppers, it was the first time being in a real recording gig. Over the course of the afternoon, we finished up our contribution to the project.

Denis and Dan were effusive in their praise and gratitude to the guys for their participation. The makers of The Hare expect to submit the film to several festivals this spring. So be on the lookout: you might just hear some fellow barbershop voices on the big screen!

—Anand Sitaram