The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, with cancelled conferences, a shift in mentality to the online world and a “new normal” with our everyday lives. When it was discovered that singing was a super-spreader activity due to the transmission via aerosols and droplets, choirs were essentially told to stop gathering for rehearsals and performances and had to create new ways to rehearse and perform together. For the choral world, this meant a sudden pivot to a whole new online world, learning new skills with virtual choirs, music videos and streaming concerts.
I am the Founder and Artistic Director of Mägi Ensemble, a professional women’s vocal ensemble that performs and records music from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We had just finished our annual fundraising gala before the pandemic came and but then had to postpone a collaborative concert with three other choirs from Seattle when we learned that singing was especially dangerous. We also had to cancel our tour to Estonia to celebrate our namesake, Ester Mägi’s 99th Birthday in January, 2021. Unfortunately, she just passed away on May 14th, but we are planning on traveling to Estonia for the commemoration of her 100th Birthday on January 10, 2022.
Mägi Ensemble created four virtual choir performances during this time. The process for these projects is that a guide track is created with the vocal lines played at the performance tempo and also sometimes included a video with the conductor, depending on the complexity of the piece. The singers then practice their parts at home and record themselves singing their part alone and then submit it. Once all of the audio and video recordings are submitted, we align, mix, and balance the individual audio tracks. We then align and assemble the video tracks into a composite before putting the video and audio back together. Mägi Ensemble is fortunate to have a team of three people that put together both the audio tracks and created the videos for our projects. Overall, it takes approximately 15 hours of editing to produce each song.
Although we are very excited to get back to singing and performing together, the time we spent in the online world opened our eyes to the many ways to include audience members (and singing participants) from all over instead of being limited to people in the same geographic area. Mägi Ensemble hosted a Baltic Trivia night in January 2021 and had participants from across the United States as well as from Sweden, Finland and Mexico! As the pandemic forced cancellation of in-person events throughout the performance season, we also moved our fundraising gala to an online platform for the evening and had a wonderful night of sharing Baltic repertoire and stories of our history.
We are also in the process of planning our 10th Anniversary performance season. Even with our return to live performances with audience, we plan to continue to produce on-line content for our worldwide audience, and we will be including a virtual element with past Mägi Ensemble members participating by submitting their audio and video files that they recorded at home to bring us all back together to celebrate our 10 years together!
We look forward to singing and performing together for many years to come, both on screen and in person and are excited to continue to perform and record this outstandingly beautiful music from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
To view the Mägi Ensemble virtual songs, visit our YouTube channel.