Masked in Troubled Times

SARASOTA, FL – When you see the words “virtual choir” you automatically think of a screen full of singing heads. For Key Chorale’s “Masked” in Troubled Times that’s not 100% true. It’s part live performance, part virtual choir and part masterwork singalong. Key Chorale has been at the forefront of finding new ways for audiences and singers to stay engaged during the pandemic and this project does just that.  

They have taken their recorded performance of Haydn’s “Mass in Troubled Times,” that premiered in March, and overlaid a virtual choir of more than 40 additional singers.. 

Due to Covid, Key Chorale was one of the few choruses in the country to perform with an orchestra this season. Imagine 25 masked singers spread throughout the concert hall, an orchestra of 20 musicians – all socially distanced, vocal soloists performing with plexiglass partitions between them and with conductor Joseph Caulkins in the center of it all.  

 “It was quite a challenge to coordinate so many singers and instrumentalists for the recording,” said Maestro Caulkins. “But the complexity of morphing this performance into a virtual choir and a masterwork singalong took a lot of time and coordination.” 

The project was the brainchild of Artistic Director Joseph Caulkins, and completed with the help of many of Key Chorale’s singers, and the expertise of Arts Laureate whose team of audio and video editors have created numerous virtual choirs, bands and orchestras for groups like the LA Master Chorale, Kansas Symphony, Virginia Symphony and “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. 

Each singer recorded their videos separately while listening to a guide track from the live performance. Then a 7-person team of sound and video editors took to the complex job of mixing the sound and video from each of these videos and putting them into a finished product.  

“It is a tedious job for the singers and the editors,” said Maestro Caulkins. “But it was so important to find a way for our singers sheltered at home to sing with us. To see the singer’s videos layered on top of the recorded performance certainly brought a tear to my eye. Seeing all of us together for this first time since March of 2020 was very emotional.” 

Caulkins, a self-acknowledged choral nerd, thought this would be a great way for singers across the globe to grab their score, dust off their cobwebs, and singalong with the full performance of one of the greatest pieces of Classical music. While everyone may not choose to singalong, anyone can watch and see how Key Chorale managed to make beautiful music even in troubled times.  

The full concert is approximately 45 minutes, is free to watch and share with your friends,