Quoddy Voices, who resumed their work together in September for a ‘virtual’ season, present their first choral video this week. The community choir’s director, John Newell, guided the singers through each step of the new musical process, which centered around Monday evening rehearsals via Zoom. To aid singers in recording their voices, Newell made guide track videos in which they hear their part played against the other voice parts’ lines, and watch Newell conducting the time and cutoffs.
During the live Zoom rehearsals we could not hear one another, of course, because of the latency issue; and even in recording their parts the chorus members were singing along with a pre-recorded guide track, not yet with each other, noted Newell.

John Newell is shown conducting in a video used by each singer while recording their voice for “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

“My job was to take the audio tracks, get them aligned, edit out extraneous sounds (like a dog barking), get each voice part in and then adjust the various parts,” explained Newell. “Phones make a very dry recording, but very clear,” he said, and noted that he added reverb to the voices to give more of a ‘room’ sound.

“Dona Nobis Pacem” (give us peace) is the first of three works that the group plans to release this season. To accompany the music track, Newell asked singers to submit photos of things that make them feel peaceful; he then edited these images together. He notes that no one knows who wrote the piece. “It is sometimes attributed to Mozart, but without evidence. It is regarded as “traditional.” 

Anne McGhie, a new member of the group, noted that being able to participate in Quoddy Voices is “one of the blessings to come out of Covid.” She explained how she’d never been able to participate before because of the hour-long evening commute from her home. McGhie, who teaches at the Whiting Village School, had been frustrated in the past by the logistics of waking up at 5 am, teaching all day, and then trying to maintain the energy needed for long evening rehearsals for either the University of Maine at Machias’ chorale or Quoddy Voices. For McGhie, another facet of engagement with the virtual chorus project has been the opportunity to share another of her passions—photography. The “Dona Nobis Pacem” video features an image she took in Washington County just before dawn, late last November. (See the image atop this post!)
“It has been a special joy to be back singing with Linda and John again,” added McGhie. “It has been a while since our several years together when John lead the choir and played organ for St. Aidan’s church in Machias.”  

“Doing the virtual choir project was a real experiment for everyone,” noted Newell. “In the end, it worked out very well. Everyone enjoyed getting to have the first listen to the completed mix. I think it was satisfying for them to hear it come together — it certainly was for me. We’re still a chorus.”