The rampant onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA this March pressured most interactions between Stanford college students to transition from face-to-face to on-line. This shift has hit the performing arts notably exhausting. Stanford performing arts organizations such because the symphony orchestra, experimental theater lab and pupil live performance community rely closely on face-to-face contact, and these experiences can’t simply be replicated on-line. A cappella, a cornerstone of Stanford’s performing arts scene, confronted the problem of adjusting to troublesome distant environments after Stanford neighborhood members began evacuating the campus in early March. This previous week, I interviewed six of the ten Stanford a cappella teams to debate how COVID-19 impacted their spring plans, how they’re sustaining friendships and making music in quarantine and their reflections on a digital quarter.

Quotes have been evenly edited for readability. 

How did COVID-19 have an effect on your a cappella group’s performances and plans for the tip of winter quarter and spring quarter?

Harmonics (Marvin Collins ‘22, Enterprise Director): We had been capable of placed on our winter present, “Blacklisted,” earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic started straight affecting campus life, which allowed us to indicate off the entire exhausting work that this group put in all through fall and winter quarter. Sadly, our plans to go to New York for our tour over Spring Break needed to be cancelled, as did our plans to carry out one other present throughout spring quarter. We regularly carry out quite a few smaller gigs on and off campus all through the quarter, however that is additionally not attainable. Manufacturing for our subsequent album has moreover been placed on maintain till additional discover, as a result of an absence of entry to recording amenities and providers. 

Raagapella (Gita Krishna B.S. ‘20 M.S. ‘21, President): Raag competes within the South-Asian A-Cappella circuit, and we had been training all quarter for our competitors in Dallas, which was alleged to be on March 7, 2020. Sadly, the competitors weekend dates coincided with the onset of COVID-19 within the US, and our journey was cancelled lower than 12 hours earlier than we had been supposed to go away. We had been heartbroken, as a result of that was the occasion we had been working in the direction of for months, and we had put in a lot effort and time into getting ready for it. We had been all so disenchanted that every one of our exhausting work would quantity to nothing, and it was actually exhausting for us as a bunch to come back to phrases with the truth that we wouldn’t be competing in Dallas. Despite the fact that it was extraordinarily unhappy on the time, I’ll all the time bear in mind this time as one that actually united us – we spent the weekend collectively as a staff earlier than all of us left campus, celebrating our exhausting work and mourning the experiences that we’d not get to have collectively.  

Counterpoint (Hannah Prausnitz-Weinbaum ‘22, Music Director): Counterpoint had our winter present, “A Unusual Encounterpoint,” deliberate for the tip of winter quarter, and we had been actually nervous that it will be cancelled as issues grew concerning the virus. We had been so lucky to have the ability to placed on the present (with somewhat additional warning) earlier than everybody was despatched dwelling. It was like a final second to shine for our group earlier than being separated for a lot of months. Whereas we had been capable of placed on our winter present, a lot of our different occasions couldn’t occur. Counterpoint had a Spring Break tour deliberate in New York, the place we deliberate to discover the realm, sing at gigs, meet different a cappella teams and bond as a bunch. It was a giant loss to overlook this necessary time for the group to develop and have enjoyable. In fact, we’re additionally dropping spring quarter rehearsals, gigs and our Spring Present. 

What has your group been doing up to now this quarter?

Talisman (Noelle Chow ‘20, Director): We’re working extra as a household who lives elsewhere proper now than as a performing group. We did a video of “Superb Grace” – that was a very great method to sing with one another once more even when we’re not in individual. We cried lots whereas watching it as a result of it felt just like the closure we didn’t get on the finish of winter quarter. It’s fascinating, as a result of for us seniors, we’ve been kicked out sooner than we anticipated. I heard whenever you depart Stanford, you need to learn to keep mates with individuals since you’re not in the identical place anymore. Studying the way to keep in contact with one another sooner than we anticipated has been fascinating and in addition actually rewarding.

Harmonics (Marvin Collins): Given the altering circumstances, we now have shifted our planning to concentrate on occasions that enable us to maintain fostering the sense of neighborhood that we love and depend on in these troublesome instances, choosing extra loosely scheduled Zoom hangouts relatively than formal rehearsals. Every little thing that our officer staff plans has the objective of guaranteeing that our members proceed to really feel linked, supported and beloved whereas away from campus. Our regular rehearsal instances have been transformed into alternatives for our members to speak to one another on Zoom, do homework and in any other case get pleasure from one another’s firm. We repeatedly use Groupme, Snapchat and different means to remain in contact with one another, and many people discover different methods for us to spend time collectively, like enjoying on-line video games as a bunch.

Raagapella (Gita Krishna): This quarter we now have tried to maintain the group linked, each musically and socially. We collaborated on a “Quarantine music video” for the primary couple weeks of quarantine, which was actually enjoyable to work on and execute. We’re additionally piloting a collection of “Raag duets” the place we pair off members of the group and so they have two weeks to place collectively a music video for a duet with each of them singing. For staff bonding, we now have been doing weekly recreation nights (which regularly go till 5 a.m.), in addition to film nights, Zoom birthday celebrations, impromptu home celebration calls and extra. These recreation nights have been one of many highlights of this quarter for me, because it has in any other case been exhausting to get my social repair whereas in quarantine, and recreation nights are nonetheless extremely enjoyable regardless that it’s all digital. 

How has the transition to collaborating on-line been? How is it totally different from being collectively in individual?

Testimony (Irena Gao ‘22, President): Singing collectively has been actually exhausting on-line. Due to bandwidth and latency points, it’s unimaginable for all 16 of us to sing on the similar time. We’ve tailored by having one unmuted individual sing together with the association MIDIs whereas everybody else (muted) follows alongside. I can’t specific how a lot I miss listening to everybody’s voices collectively. It’s undoubtedly one thing that the distant atmosphere can’t replicate.

Blended Co (Natalie Stiner ‘22, Soprano): The transition has been troublesome for me solely as a result of I actually miss singing with the remainder of Blended Co in individual; there are simply elements of rehearsals and performances when the voices fill the room collectively which are exhausting to create over Zoom. Nevertheless, our officers have been working so exhausting to guarantee that we now have weekly conferences which are enjoyable and uplifting. They’ve redesigned quite a lot of Blended Co traditions to suit a digital expertise, which I’ve been so grateful for. It’s made me much more excited for once I get to see all of them once more!

Counterpoint (Aspen Stuart-Cunningham ‘22, Assistant Music Director): Making music collaboratively is vastly tougher on-line than in individual. Singing over Zoom doesn’t actually work – we’ve tried and it didn’t finish properly! The lag time for our voices to share over the web prevents singing to be synced and ends with everybody cracking up. Collaborating on-line just about means we now have to work individually. Despite the fact that you will have seen movies on-line of a cappella teams performing, every individual needs to be recorded individually and asynchronously, which takes away quite a lot of the magic of constructing a cappella in a bunch, in individual.

Has your group launched any digital efficiency movies? Are there any plans to launch one within the close to future?

Talisman (Noelle Chow): Stanford helped us put collectively a video of us singing “Superb Grace.” Superb Grace is a chunk we discovered in winter quarter, and we sang it at our winter present. We had all people plug of their earphones and sing alongside to the recording from the live performance. It was like singing with all people as a result of that’s the sound of all people singing collectively. For me, once I was singing and listening to that recording of our final live performance, it was cool to really feel like I used to be again there with these individuals. We had all people report themselves doing that after which spliced all of it collectively. I did the audio enhancing; I stripped all of the audio from the movies and combined it. Then, the visible enhancing was completed by Kurt Hickman [Stanford Associate Director for Visual Media]. 

Testimony (Irena Gao): Sure! We’ve recorded two “Zoom-style” songs up to now and are at present enhancing them. We’re additionally enthusiastic about partaking alumni to collaborate on a 3rd tune, which has been a traditional for the group over a long time: Testify to Love.

Raagapella (Gita Krishna): Sure! We launched a music video for the tune “Vande Mataram” by A.R. Rahman in April! We’re additionally hoping to supply extra on-line content material over the following few months. We will likely be posting this content material to our Instagram web page (@stanfordraagapella), our Youtube account, and our Fb web page. 

What have been some takeaways from this expertise? How do you suppose your group will change sooner or later after going via COVID-19?

Blended Co (Natalie Stiner): This expertise has confirmed to me how necessary the individuals I’ve met via Blended Co actually are to me. Experiencing COVID-19 has not been enjoyable for anybody, and it’s been in all probability one of many hardest issues I’ve ever been via. However in all of that, I’ve by no means felt like I didn’t have a neighborhood to be supported in. On and off campus, Blended Co has been a neighborhood during which I can loosen up and have a blast whereas additionally making wonderful music and recollections with the best individuals ever. I’m undecided what Blended Co or something will appear to be going ahead, however I do know that gained’t change!

Harmonics (Marvin Collins): My important takeaway up to now has been how a lot the Harmonics has to supply by way of connection and assist. The pandemic has made everybody’s lives tougher and sophisticated, and it has been nice to see this household offering a supply of stability for its members. I’ve all the time identified that the Harmonics is filled with my closest mates, however this expertise has actually proven how we will be there for one another once we want it most. I believe experiencing all the restrictions of this present scenario will enhance each our appreciation of our friendships and our ardour for our music. I’m past excited to have the ability to study, develop and carry out with this group in individual once more sooner or later.

Testimony (Irena Gao): I’ve been floored to find out how loving this group will be. Every of us have needed to reckon with our faiths in new, generally troublesome environments, and the eagerness with which our members have prayed for one another, known as to inspect one another, celebrated birthdays for each other and shared our lives collectively is unbelievable. We’re after all grateful to have additionally picked up new abilities associated to digital performances alongside the best way, however the primary present has been one in our hearts. They are saying, “Music connects individuals,” and Testimony has undoubtedly linked us.

Contact Nadia Jo at nejo ‘at’ 

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