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Virtual choirs and mosaic videos

The mosaic video has been around for quite a few years, but virtual choirs and mosaic videos really took off when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Having jumped on the bandwagon in 2021, I thought I’d share my own experience of this fun but crazy phenomenon.



If you type in ‘a cappella’ and a song title into the YouTube search field, you are sure to come up with dozens of mosaic videos. Often a single enterprising person has picked a song they love, come up with an arrangement, recorded and filmed themselves singing every part, mixed the sound and put together the video. Very often there are lots of clever little touches that make the viewer smile – creative costumes, having a single vocalist stand out somehow by dressing or behaving differently to all the other clones, bringing in more screens when additional parts are added, etc. One very popular artist, Jared Halley, has become famous for having one of the performers dance wildly while the rest sing. But as you can imagine, a HUGE amount of work goes into this process!



It’s not only used by solo a cappella artists. Groups such as Pentatonix have used the mosaic style in their music videos extremely effectively over the past decade, as evidenced by the 374 million views of their Daft Punk medley.



And if it’s one thing making a solo mosaic video, with a single person, a single camera setup, and a single recording system, it is quite another thing to ask a bunch of people in different houses (or even different countries) with different equipment to record a soundtrack and video, and manage to put those together! The idea of virtual choirs began in 2009 with Eric Whitacre, who used a video of himself conducting to create a virtual choir of 185 people from around the world. And in lockdown, the idea exploded, and many of these videos became a message of hope that one day we would be able to sing together again.



I conduct a community choir, the Challis Singers, and given the strong restrictions on group singing once COVID hit, we were forced to pivot and find other ways of connecting. (Just an aside here: sporting groups resumed in the second half of 2020, but choirs in Sydney were not allowed to sing together until December, and even then only outside – that’s more than 8 months!) We held online rehearsals through Discord, which was a great way of staying in touch and supporting each other - but it definitely lacked the oxytocin boost that you get from singing together in person! Another way was though mosaic videos. I made guide tracks, everyone recorded their vocals and we mixed them, and then we came up with a theme for the final product and asked everyone to record a video and put them together. We completed three videos, and I must admit that still have some half-completed ones languishing on my computer! It was fun to create something at a time when we couldn’t put on concerts, and so many of our usual outlets for self-expression were unavailable.

 


Then in 2021, as we were coming out of yet another COVID lockdown, I did an a cappella arranging course with Pentatonix through Studio. We had to arrange two songs and create a 5-part mosaic video for each one. It was a lot of fun! When I got to the video stage, my kids got involved and chose my outfits for the bass and beatboxer takes (clearly the bass version of me needed a moustache!). It was challenging to sing each part from memory in a single take while looking into the camera, and so the whole process was quite time-consuming, but it was very rewarding to put them all together and see the finished product.


 

So maybe you would like to give it a try! And I would love to hear if you’d like to see more mosaic videos from me.

 

 

 

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