High School Choir goes virtual amid COVID-19

I have written a few stories about how artists have been forced into pivoting how they share their art with the world as they experience the lack of a live audience. Many have been creative and embraced using technology.

A Michigan high school embraced technology early on to create a beautiful video as most of us entered into self-isolation.

Detroit Country Day School Choir Director Ron Weiler released this video on YouTube which has over 11,000 views and growing.

O, Love‘ is a song composed by Elaine Hagenberg. Prior to COVID-19, the choir was supposed to rehearse and perform this piece in public.

“I originally chose this song for my Concert Choir a couple of years ago (it was my first exposure to the incredible work of Elaine Hagenberg). At the time I was dealing with some personal challenges and the piece spoke to me on that personal level, but the students also immediately connected to the text” said Weiler.

Weiler has been the Director of Middle and Upper School Choirs at Detroit Country Day School since 1998. During that time, his choirs have received numerous First Division, Excellent and Superior Ratings at MSVMA District and State Choral Festivals. A Traverse City, MI native, he was mentored by both Russell and Melvin Larimer from 1988 – 1996. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and Keyboard Performance with Honors from Albion College in 1995.

Detroit Country Day School – “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg (VIRTUAL CHOIR)

“When things rapidly began to change and schools were closed, and the reality of what was happening began to sink in, I knew immediately that this piece and it’s text was a perfect message of hope. Portions of the text that really spoke to me during this dark time of COVID-19: “O Joy, that seeks me through the pain” That the joy of our music could be a source of strength to see us through the pain and fear of what we were facing. But here’s the one that really got me: “I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be”. In the midst of the rain, we can see the promise (the rainbow) of love and joy and know that there will be a tearless morning. Such hope communicated so brilliantly by music and text”.

The song is indeed beautiful and appropriate for the current times we are living in, the video produced is equally magnificent.

To produce this video took commitment and a lot of “know how” on the technical side. Over 50 hours to put together, the bulk of which was right before COVID-19 hit Michigan.

“I am a career music director, but I am also a big tech nerd. I do professional video editing both for my school and as a personal side business, and I knew this was a perfect way to combine the two passions of mine. This year, I knew that I wanted to do something like this, so we began laying the groundwork for this virtual project in the first semester. The recordings that the students made were their mid-term exam in choir in January. Just before school was closed I had been able to show them glimpses of what it might look like and play the final audio for them just before we parted. I could tell that the students thought it was cool. The reactions as it played on the news channels and gained so many views on YouTube” said Weiler.

“Well done!” This was Elaine Hagenberg’s reaction after seeing this video.

“We are in the process now of going through the same steps to produce another video that will be a “virtual world premiere” of the piece that we commissioned from her in 2019 called “Welcome the Dawn” which also has stunningly appropriate text for the situation we find ourselves in. I’m hoping that the dawn will soon be here and we can release that video to welcome it!” said Weiler.

I rounded out my interview with Mr. Weiler to ask about his students and how they are currently coping with the pandemic. “I think that this seems to have been a particular source of pride for our seniors. Many of my seniors I have had in choir since they were in 6th grade, and for years they have had such goals and aspirations for that final semester, senior year, in the choral program. That final State Festival performance. That final POPS concert where the seniors are recognized for their years of contribution and dedication. So many things that were in a heartbeat taken away from them through absolutely no fault of their own. In some small way, this video, and the overwhelmingly positive reception from the world, has been a small victory for them. A way to have another performance. I am extremely proud of my students and how they’ve handled it. We have many more projects in the works to be released as the year ends, now that we know that we will not be physically together before the school year ends, though we remain together in the virtual classroom”.

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