Quoddy Voices presents their final virtual choir project for the 2020 season this week: “Ave Verum Corpus”, a short motet by W. A. Mozart. “It is one of the all-time great short works for chorus and a favorite of choral singers everywhere,” says John Newell, the choir’s director, plus in the virtual season, their audio and video editor.
“The piece also has an interesting back story: In the spring of 1791 Mozart was consumed with his opera The Magic Flute, and his wife Constanze was pregnant with their sixth child. Mozart was very concerned for her health; his friend Anton Stoll helped to find a place for Constanza to stay in the spa town Baden bei Wien. Stoll was the musical director of the local parish church. In return for his help, Mozart composed “Ave Verum Corpus” (Hail, True Body) on June 17, while visiting Constanze. The work is a setting of the 14th century Latin hymn used in the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was most likely performed six days later at the church. Sadly, Mozart lived only until December of that year.”
As with their previous releases, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Dona Nobis Pacem”, the singers learned their parts during Zoom rehearsals with Newell, then submitted recordings for his assembly and editing.
To help the singers with their recordings, Newell recorded ‘guide tracks’ for each voice part, which included the accompaniment on piano, string sounds for the other voice parts, and either clarinet or bassoon solo sounds for the featured voice part. He also created a video of himself conducting the piece so that singers could both hear their part and watch his direction, to help them with tempo variations, breathing, etc. The singers made audio recordings of their parts while watching and listening to their guide track. They emailed their recordings to Newell, who put them all together, then assembled the video, coordinating images with the audio. “For the video portion of this project,” noted Newell, “I decided to make a scrolling view of Mozart’s original handwritten score. I truly enjoyed getting such an extended close up view of his handwriting!”
Quoddy Voices will take a break through the holidays, with plans to resume Zoom sessions in the new year. “I have to say that I am impressed and touched by the way members have faithfully attended and worked on our music during this season,” said Newell. “I have really enjoyed seeing them each week. And I know personally how much work it takes to make a recording of oneself singing their part alone!”
Quoddy Voices is a constituent group of Eastport Arts Center, where creativity and community meet. The choir’s videos are available via the center’s website and YouTube channel. Read more about the virtual choir project, and watch their previous musical releases, here and here.