Virtual winter concert orchestrated at Greencastle-Antrim High School
Three days of performances are needed for the Greencastle-Antrim High School winter concert that will last about 45 minutes.
That observation came from Roz Bingaman, choir director, Monday as small instrumental groups came together to play music.
The small-group performances will be combined by sound engineer Bob Ranalli from All Sound Pro LLC of Chambersburg to create the selections in the G-AHS virtual winter concert.
The show will go on despite COVID-19 thanks to a proposal from Peter Vincenti, band director, and Bingaman that was approved by the school board on Dec. 3. Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, called the the cost not to exceed $1,695 "valuable use of COVID money," referring to federal CARES Act educational funding.
The likelihood of a winter concert had been uncertain since school opened this year in the midst of the pandemic, and the high school has been closed to in-person learning since the second week in November.
As soon as he knew for sure students would not be in school, Vincenti said he thought, "How else can we do this?"
The answer is a concert like no other in a year like no other.
"It’s an opportunity for the rest of the school and the community to celebrate the learning and music that is still able to happen in our schools, despite the COVID climate we’re in," Vincenti and Bingaman explained in their slide presentation to the school board.
"We are striving to provide the students with as many practical real world opportunities as possible," the music educators wrote. "We feel that this is the best compromise for not being able to have an in person concert. We also feel that the students look forward to the performance opportunities. That’s a large part of the reason they are in these ensembles. This is our chance as educators to reward their hard work and give them a different concert experience and hopefully one that they will remember for years to come."
Strike up the band
Vincenti's band students have only had their pieces for a month and they've been critiqued individually on 30- to 60-second clips of music they've sent in. Until the run-throughs prior to each recording session, they'd never played the music together.
"There are more difficulties when we're not all together ... this is a new experience because we're all together," said Gabby Grazette, a clarinetist. She is part of a five-piece woodwind ensemble that taped Monday morning.
A coffee filter was secured with electrical tape over the bell of Megan Gingrich's alto saxophone. That type of COVID "mask" is also used to keep spit and germs from escaping from the brass instruments. In keeping with COVID protocols, the students were socially distanced, and the performance space was sanitized after each use.
The woodwind ensemble plays a medley of "Jeannette Isabella" and "Greensleeves." Other members are Kylie Wenger, clarinet, and Peyton Barvinchack and Katrina Long, flute.
Danielle Horner, also a flutist, was on hand to help with the recording sessions.
"I'm glad we're able to do something this year ... it's a lot different, but I'm glad we're able to put something together," Horner said.
"This is the way life should be, making noise and communicating with each other," said Vincenti.
His cadre of about 100 instrumentalists are featured in four groups.
In addition to the woodwind ensemble, the symphonic band, made up of 10th- to 12th-graders, will perform "Sleigh Ride"; the ninth-grade band will offer "Adventum"; and a 10-member brass group plays "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain."
"I will be over the moon when I see my kids," Bingaman said.
She said the idea of seeing the students in person and hearing music breathed new life into the season and put excitement in the air.
Her 36 students have been working in groups via Zoom, but not singing together. Each group has a student leader who sings — the others sing along, but are muted because the voices would be too confusing online at one time.
"It's really created some individual leaders," Bingaman said.
The 36 vocalists will perform "Glow"; "Silent Night" with a special segment by seniors; and the Hanukkah song "We Are Lights."
Student Zakary Reynolds, who created all the rehearsal tracks, will be the accompanist.
A learning experience
"This is an opportunity for the students to have both a unique experience with a professional recording company and sound engineer," the instructors' slide program said. "We will discuss the experience in our class and explore the world of recording/sound engineering as it pertains to musicians, both amateur and professional."
The school concert is a learning experience for the sound engineer, too.
Normally, Ranalli would record a whole group of performers at one time with a microphone or two and program would be ready quickly. He's never recorded a concert this way and "had to get real creative."
It will probably take two days to mix the music of the G-AHS winter concert. Ranalli expects to encounter some bumps along the way, but said, "We'll work through them."
Exactly when the recording will be ready hasn't been determined, but it should be sometime during the week before Christmas. It will be on the school district website gcasd.org, Facebook page and YouTube channel and on the Greencastle-Antrim community radio station WRGG 93.7 FM.