In mid-July a Coronation Festival the gardens of Buckingham Palace featured a number of performances from world-renowned musicians. In the audience, her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. One of those performing on her behalf, Yellow Medicine East Choir Director Jeff Iverson.
Now before one hurts themselves trying to figure out how Iverson managed to perform for the queen while also preparing for a starring role in this past weekend's production of "The Sound of Music," it is important to note that Iverson was at Buckingham Palace solely in voice and digital projection, as one of 5,903 participants in Eric Whitacre's "Virtual Choir."
Iverson first met Whitacre, an internationally-renowned, American Grammy Award-winning composer and conductor, during the 2011 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference in Chicago. This past March, Iverson crossed paths with him again at the 2013 ACDA National Conference held in Dallas, where Whitacre hosted a session detailing the Virtual Choir concept.
"After hearing him describe the process, I thought I would give it a shot," said Iverson. "I just thought it looked like something that would be neat to be a part of."
According to Whitacre's website, the Virtual Choir began in May 2009 as a simple experiment in social media when Britlin Losee––a fan of Whitacer's music––recorded a video of herself singing his song 'Sleep' and shared it on YouTube. Moved by the performance, Whitacre responded by extrapolating the concept and asking his online fans to upload a video of themselves singing, 'Sleep," which was subsequently cut into a single joint, video performance.
From there, the concept was honed into the Virtual Choir wherein Whitacre records himself conducting a song that virtual choir members can record themselves singing along with from anywhere in the word. The level of artistry in the music is matched by the digital video presentation, which is designed and integrated by a sizable production crew.
This past July's premiere marked the fourth rendition of the Virtual Choir. The first featured 185 singers and drew over a million hits the first two months of its release on the web. Meanwhile, the most recent Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise, featured 5,903 singers and 8,400 videos submitted from 101 different countries. It has over 250,000 Youtube views since its release.
"It is remarkable how they can take thousands of voices and make them all sound good with pitch, timing, etc. There must have been hours of work editing the final product," commented Iverson.
Still, the concensus is that the most remarkable piece of the virtual choir is the diversity of human voices that the concept manages to bring together beyond the bounds of nations, creeds and colors to share a single song.
"People from all over the world submitted videos for this project," said Iverson. "It is arguably impossible to sing together live considering the countries represented are often in conflict with each other, and Eric Whitacre was able to bring people from these countries together through music," he said before adding, "Not many aspects of our lives are able to do this."
Page 2 of 2 - Those who want to see the video and learn more about the VC can do so at http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir. Iverson is one of the nearly 6,000 individuals whose own video recording makes up a window in an assortment of skyscrapers used in a city scene that serves as the setting for the video. Iverson says he shows up at around the 2:13 mark and is towards the upper right hand corner.