Monday, August 15, 2022

SGF students don’t miss a beat with their viral virtual group song

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Kept apart while school was closed in hopes to slow the spread of Coronavirus, Vocal Point, the select a cappella singing ensemble at South Glens Falls High School, figured out how to sing together anyway — and this week they made a splash doing so, lighting up Facebook and YouTube with a virtual group sing of the 2011 song “Without You.”

The students garnered 88 “likes,” 30 shares, 11 comments and reached 4,532 viewers on The Chronicle’s Facebook page alone, for their version of the song by French deejay David Guetta and the singer Usher.

By Monday, the online video had more than 1,400 views.

Search ‘South High Vocal Point’ on YouTube for this (and many more songs, done in person) by the talented ensemble.

Lips together, songs apart — South High’s Vocal Point a cappella ensemble finds a way to sing together. Solists include Ethan Eggleston, far right. Screen shot from “Without You, a Virtual A Cappella” on the Vocal Point YouTube channel

Their teacher and director Betsy Stambach-Fuller told The Chronicle in an email interview, “I’ve had six requests from chorus teachers all over the country (some of whom I don’t even know!) for help in getting a similar project off the ground.”

“The Vocal Point students just want to keep sharing their music and are pleased we found the means.”

How’d they do it?

Ms. Stambach-Fuller said, “The students learned the song on their own during this social distancing endeavor.”

They received the score on a Saturday via Google Classroom; performance videos were due the next Tuesday.

The group had performed the same arrangement in 2018 as their “senior send off,” Ms. Stambach-Fuller said, “but only one current member, soloist Jedidiah Shortte, was in the group at that time.”

She said, “The song’s lyrics feel especially poignant for what we’re going through, and one of our current members requested we dust it off for this project.”

Before school was closed, knowing that was likely and hoping still to work on their planned annual show at the Park Theater (scheduled on June 12), “We took class time to brainstorm how to stay connected and continue making music together,” Ms. Stambach-Fuller said.

The students videoed themselves at home, alone, singing to a provided “click track,” that their teacher explains is “a timing reference” to help keep them in sync.

“Most used their phones for music playback and then filmed using their school-issued Chromebook,” Ms. Stambach-Fuller said.

She did the editing from home on iMac programs GarageBand and iMovie.

She says, “The box effect required many layers (about 14 files per still frame you see in our final video). The most time consuming aspect was aligning their mouths with one another.”

She said, “I’d say it took me from 10 to 12 hours to put together,” over the course of five days “so as to balance the other demands of remote-teaching. My husband and children said the song haunted their dreams after hearing it so many times during my tedious editing process!”

Ms. Stambach-Fuller said, “Vocal Point is a curricular class that goes far beyond music performance so this project wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. Much of the curriculum is rooted in music business principles.

“We record professionally each spring, host a large a cappella festival each fall, and culminate the academic year with a large spring show at the Park Theater.

“We’ve also competed in the International Championship of High School A Cappella for the past six years,” which requires a video audition that the students plan, film, edit and submit.

“If anything, this project was unusual for them because they had less control over the editing due to our remote collaboration,” she said.

Other projects she’s done from remote while school is closed? Ms. Stambach-Fuller said she also created a student version of the TV reality show “The Masked Singer.”

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