October 7, 2020
The CUNY Virtual Choir Project at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) will debut two videos featuring singers from around the world on October 13 at 7 p.m. on the BMCC Music Department’s Facebook page as well as Instagram. After the premiere, the videos will be available for viewing at the BMCC website as well as on social media.
Each video features hundreds of individual musical performances submitted from around the world that were synchronized then digitally embedded into animated versions of New York City as well as Asia and Western Europe.
The videos are the culmination of the CUNY Virtual Choir project, which kicked off in January and was funded by the 2019-2020 Diversifying CUNY’s Leadership: CUNY-Harvard Consortium and led by Music and Art Department Chairperson Eugenia Oi Yan Yau. Professor Yau was selected to be one of eight scholar leaders in the consortium and is the first BMCC professor to be selected for the program.
“From the beginning, this has been a collaborative project,” said Yau. “It takes everyone’s dedication to complete. Our students have been proud to be part of the CUNY Virtual Choir Project, making music with their fellow college peers from campuses around the world.”
The CUNY Virtual Choir was open to any singer with access to the internet. Participants could go to the project’s website, enter their basic profile information such as name and location and then download the two songs—both written by BMCC music professors. Next, they could use a smart phone or computer to record and upload their videos.
“We extracted all the audio files from the individual videos and made certain that they lined up at the same point,” explained Music and Art Professor Can Olgun, who oversaw the audio technology in the project.
The Together Now video, which is set in an animated lower Manhattan, was in part inspired by the resilience of music and the BMCC community living through the age of COVID-19.
“The song Together Now was always visually grounded in New York City and in particular the area surrounding the BMCC campus,” said Diego.
“Through technology and music, we found ways to keep together, despite the challenges of distance learning,” said Media Arts and Technology Professors Carlo Diego and Christine Mariani who created the visual and animation aspects of the video. Computer Information Systems Professor Jose Santos also helped create the videos.
Almost 400 individual submissions from around the world were uploaded to the project’s website. Nations represented include Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Trinidad, Tobago, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.
In addition to BMCC, eight other CUNY campuses—Hostos Community College, Queensborough Community College, Baruch College, City College of Technology, the CUNY Graduate Center, Hunter College, Lehman college, and Brooklyn College —also took part in the project.
Participants from organizations such as Hopewell Valley Chorus in New Jersey, the Christian Oratorio Society in Washington D.C. and Covenant College in Georgia also submitted performances.
“This was something that they could all be a part of together, something that had meaning and substance, and also something that was safe to engage in during a worldwide pandemic,” said Angus.
To help generate excitement for the videos’ premier, the BMCC team has also been collecting links to all the Virtual Choir participant’s social media such as Facebook.
“After we post the videos, we’ll tag all the participants which should generate additional views of the work,” said Angus. “We’ve been posting alerts including the behind- the-scenes visual editing process, the audio mixing process and other social media publicity efforts.
Yau is hopeful the project will continue to grow.
“The second phase of this project will reach out to even more people all around the world,” said Yau.
- Videos feature performances from BMCC around the world
- Original animation created by BMC professors
- Project is a multi-department team effort led by Music and Art Chair Eugenia Oi Yan Yau