News

Music Leader Exchange 4: Online Choirs and Vocal Work

Fri 2 April 2021

Mariana Rosas is a choir conductor who joined the MAC Makes Music team in 2020. She currently co-leads the West Midlands Inclusive Choir (our partnership with Soundabout) and leads our Come and Sing sessions that incorporate singing and basic Makaton signing. In this Music Leader Exchange session, she spoke about what is meant by an "inclusive" choir and how singing online can lend itself to working inclusively.

What is an inclusive choir?

  • Sessions activities are designed so that everyone has something to do according to their abilities.
  • Participants are encouraged to use soundmakers to contribute sounds at specific times.
  • Sessions begin with the ‘Hello Song’. It’s very important to welcome everyone individually and give them an opportunity to say hello back.

Benefits of working online:

"When photography was invented, people didn’t stop painting. When recording was invented, people didn’t stop going to live events. Zoom is not a poor replacement for ‘the real thing’, but a new tool to create a new experience."

  • Zoom allows people who wouldn’t normally be able to attend choir to come and enjoy that experience.
  • Working online lends itself to making individual videos and editing them together for a collaborative performance.
  • The mute/unmute button gives participants a choice to join in in whichever way they feel most comfortable.

Warm ups:

  • Start with all participants on mute
  • Include a warm up that uses sound makers, voices or body percussion
  • Play a backing track to jam along to
  • Invite participants to unmute and make a sound whenever they like

Mariana asked ‘How did this warm up make you feel?’ and the responses were:

  • Backing track made it feel like we were in a room together and kept a flow.
  • Felt good to be involved and comfortable to make sounds straight away. No time to worry about it and no pressure to get it right because there was no expectation to be insync anyway.
  • The emphasis is on making sounds together.
  • Mariana’s phrase was ‘you are invited to unmute if you would like to’, which meant there was no pressure to join in.
  • Felt more comfortable to join in online because I was in my own space

‘Reading the Room’ Online:

  • It can be difficult to know if you’re pitching the session right if everyone is on mute and you can’t hear them.
  • Plug in a big TV screen so you can see everyone at once. Make an effort to respond to what they are doing so it feels like you’re together and not just behind a screen.

Technology

  • Use a loop station and layer sounds, keeping everyone on mute to create a sense of singing together in a choir, without latency problems.
  • Mariana uses Garageband on an ipad, building simple tracks using preset beats and recording harmonies over the top.
  • Mute different channels at different times and invite participants to sing whichever line they prefer.
  • This setup also means you can record participants individually in to Garageband and create a collaborative song during a session.
  • You don’t need Zoom on the ipad but you do need an audio interface to connect the audio to the laptop

Value = Knowledge + Skills x Attitude

"While we are all apart it’s essential that we keep coming together to share our progress. As long as we are excited about what we are doing we will inspire excitement in other people."