Two choirs on two continents create virtual performance  

They’ve never rehearsed together as a group, but the ethereal voices of 37 students from Pittsburg State University and from Frutillar, Chile, in South America, can be heard singing together as one choir.  

The magic began when last year during the heart of the pandemic, Music Department Chair and Choir Director Susan Marchant received an email inquiry from a colleague in Chile.  

They discussed possibilities for interaction and collaboration virtually, since travel was at a standstill.  

The PSU Music Department has a reputation for international partnerships.  

Marchant has taken the PSU Choirs abroad on performance tours throughout Europe.   

Associate Professor Raul Munguia, who directs the strings program and conducts the Southeast Kansas Symphony, often brings student musicians from Central and South America to campus and travels abroad to conduct other symphonies.  

Professor Reena Natenberg has presented master classes to students in other countries.   

The Solo & Chamber Music Series often pulls in noted performers from around the globe.  

And just last week, a pianist from Italy and a conductor from Russia were invited to rehearse and perform with PSU students at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.  

But this project, done in partnership with faculty and students at the Casa de la Musica in Chile, was a bit different: American and Chilean students would each learn, rehearse, and record their individual vocal parts that would then be assembled into a virtual choir performance that bridged the 5,436 miles between them.  

“It is best described as innovative collaboration across continents,” Marchant said.  

Their song of choice: Kyrie from Schubert’s Mass in G Major.  

Marchant recorded the organ accompaniment for the project, and Frutillar choral director Maxiel Marchant (no relation) led the ensemble and served as soprano soloist.  

Each student wore earphones and listened to a very soft recorded track while recording their own individual part. PSU singers recorded theirs in the historic and iconic Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall for its acoustical environment — easily recognizable in some of the videos thanks to the Fisk Pipe Organ behind them.  

Marchant then assembled the PSU files, carefully synchronizing the audio and video recordings. Then, she sent them to Chile where technicians stitched them together with the individual recordings by Chilean students.  

The two choirs did “meet,” sort of: they enjoyed a Zoom session during which they had an opportunity to learn about each other and share information about their musical interests.   

“More conversations are planned as the group looks to a future that may include activities such as tours, exchanges, and additional collaborations,” Marchant said. “When people can travel again, we’d sure like to do an exchange. Some of their students would like to apply here for school, so we’ll see where this goes!”  

The virtual performance can be seen/heard here:

Listen now