Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

SDSU Choral Director Orchestrates Virtual Choir

Conducted by Dr. Arian Khaefi, the video features 75 singers from around the world, including SDSU Choral Studies students.

SDSU Choral Director Orchestrates Virtual Choir

Singers in a virtual choir performance of “Healing Heart” by Jacob Narverud

by Georgia Burgé

June 4, 2020

When COVID-19 prompted San Diego State University to move all classes to virtual modalities earlier this year, many performing arts students wondered how they’d continue to make art together if they couldn’t do it in person. SDSU’s director of choral studies Dr. Arian Khaefi decided that distance shouldn’t have to halt the creation of music.

Dr. Khaefi, in collaboration with School of Music and Dance lecturer in piano Dr. Sonya Schumann, coordinated a group of 75 singers in a virtual choir performance of “Healing Heart” by Jacob Narverud. The group included SDSU choir students as well as singers from Germany, France, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and across the U.S.

The performance was created by layering clips of performers singing their parts individually. The video was mixed and mastered by Javier Piñón, a junior studying Music Recording Technology & Audio Design at SDSU along with guidance from professional audio engineers including Dr. Chris Warren (Music Recording Technology and Audio Design Area Coordinator) and Dr. Elizabeth Schumann. From inception to publication, the project took just under a month to complete.

According to Dr. Khaefi, this project was meant to serve several purposes: a capstone for SDSU choral students, an opportunity for singers from San Diego and abroad to sing again and a message of gratitude to the healthcare professionals for their bravery in combating the virus.

“These past few months have been devastating for the performing arts, and this airborne virus holds singers in a particularly insidious embrace,” said Dr. Khaefi said. “We miss singing together, we miss creating sound together, we miss expressing and creating art together. We wanted to give people an opportunity to find their artistic voice through a choir, even if by virtual means.”

The lyrics of the piece are from a poem of the same name by Robert Bode, which speaks to human resilience in the face of adversity. The musical arrangement of the piece is one that requires cooperation between many voices to sing a single note. Dr. Khaefi chose this piece to symbolize that the group can carry the note together, but no one person could do it alone.

“In one particular passage, many singers need to coordinate their breathing efforts to sustain a single note for a long while,” Dr. Khaefi said. “We are in this extraordinary time together, not apart, and we will carry one another when any single person falters. Right now, the ones doing the heavy lifting are our essential workers.”

You can view the performance here.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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