Bringing singers together at Christmas is a tradition for Steve Guidone and 2020 isn’t going to stop him.
The Northern Lights Chamber Choir director is hard at work with the choir preparing a musical Christmas program titled, A Dylan Thomas Christmas.
This year, because of COVID-19 and related restrictions, the task of conducting the choir won’t be done at a podium. Instead, it is a painstaking process already underway involving individual pre-recorded tracks, being compiled, edited and mastered into a cohesive radio program.
”I know choirs around the country are doing virtual concerts and stuff but mostly they’re doing a couple of pieces in virtual and then putting pieces of previous recordings onto their web pages,” said Guidone. “I don’t of anybody that’s done a complete concert virtual. It’s turned out to be a real massive project.”
Work on the project began in July, explained Guidone, with the preparation of guide tracks for each vocal part, for 14 Christmas songs. Choir members have been recording their voices individually. As have individuals wishing to be part of the community sing-along that’s to be part of the program.
“I’ve had a number of people send in audio-tracks for the sing-along portion – I’ve had two sent in from elementary classrooms and if I get anymore we’ll have to have a separate radio program,” laughs Guidone. “What they sent was quite cute so I’ll stick that in there.”
Singer Andrea Roberts and saxophonist Sandy Cameron safely and separately recorded a version of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire at Guidone’s garage that he transformed into a makeshift second studio.
“That was kind of weird because you can’t see your singer, you can’t tell when they’re breathing,” said Guidone of his recording with Roberts. “Two days later I had Sandy come in to record his track. And then I glued them all together. That came out quite nice.”
Adding some brass to open the concert were Rich Thorne and Scott McKee. Also on the bill are Holly McCallum and Andrew Stoney.
Most of the heaving lifting for Guidone is with the choir itself. Every song has about 19 tracks sent in by choir members. Each track needs to be meticulously mixed together so that every start of a word, every note change, breaths and consonants are aligned.
“You’ve got layer upon layer of management to try and get the sound you want. And actually, I was surprised at how detailed you can get, how neat a product you can get, it’s quite beautiful actually,” said Guidone.
Despite the amount of work involved, Guidone is driven to deliver before Christmas.
“Choirs and Christmas are connected,” said Guidone. “What’s Christmas without Christmas carols and Christmas concerts? I’m trying to provide people something to listen to and musicians something to play.”
So, this holiday season, Guidone and the Northern Lights Choir invite you to sit back with a hot cuppa at hand and listen to Jon Washburn’s exquisite arrangements of Christmas pieces sung by the choir, interspersed with the story of a Child’s Christmas in Wales narrated by Patrick Benson.
The program will be aired on Voice of the Shuswap Radio Station (CKVS-93.7 FM) at 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 at on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at 8 p.m. It will also be streamed on the the radio station’s webpage as well as the choir’s. The program is free to enjoy but donations can be made on the Northern Lights Chamber Choir’s website.
For concert details, guide tracks and streaming, go to northernlightschamberchoir.ca.