FACE String students produce virtual concerts during the pandemic

Montreal - Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Following the lockdown last March  FACE School’s students and music teachers were devastated that the traditional series of instrumental and vocal concerts at the end of the year could not take place.

Desperate to reconnect with her string students and eager to provide motivation for them by making music together, string department teacher,Theodora Stathopoulos, launched a virtual orchestra project in May 2020 that she named “A Ray of Sunshine.” The pilot project was a great success and has attracted close to 1,000 views since June 2020.

The restrictions in the schools, due to the pandemic, continued at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year and instrumental music was put to a halt with minimal performance opportunities. Stathopoulos launched the Virtual Orchestra Project anew with an objective to involve more students and produce two concerts: one in January 2021 and another at the end of the year. 

In spite of the fact that participation in this project is voluntary, over 40 string students from Grades 5 to 11 responded to the call to participate in September 2020. The students were placed in a “virtual” orchestra of their technical level regardless of their age or grade. Following orchestra , the students were provided with a pre-recorded track of their part and were given several weeks to practice using it with occasional support from teacher and/or a tutor, if required. When they had learned their part the participating students had to record themselves and send the recording for montage.  The montage of the individual recordings is a long and difficult phase of the virtual orchestra process and requires additional tech support.

Ms. Stathopoulos deems that the resources and efforts to create the virtual orchestras, and produce a virtual concert, have numerous advantages in the present context, including flexibility to return to live rehearsals/concerts if the distancing conditions lift, to continue virtually for as long as the situation remains status quo or to continue with hybrid teaching.  Although a click track can never replace the richness of the orchestra ensemble experience, a virtual orchestra concert is a tangible product, a souvenir of the perseverance and determination to engage in musical expression and make music with others in spite tremendous challenges.

For the students who submitted an audio - visual recording it is an incredible achievement – most of them having worked with a click track/ metronome for the very first time and the time spend learning to play with it offers many advantages to instrumentalists!

Most importantly the virtual orchestra creates a connection to classmates and orchestra members and gives a sense of unity and collaboration.  Above all, the virtual concert provides participating students with a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction and a “concert” that they can share with friends and family anywhere in the world.  

The YouTube videos of FACE’s virtual orchestras are already going viral!

Ray of Sunshine

Allegro Virtual Orchestra

Vivace Virtual Orchestra

Presto Virtual Orchestra