THE MUSIC CONTINUES:
VIRTUAL CHOIR STARTER PACK


Below you’ll find everything you need to learn, record, and submit your very own contribution to our community performance of Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus.” 

This includes resources prepared by the talented artists in our Ensemble Studio training program: musical accompaniment from pianist Rachael Kerr, and vocal tracks from soprano Anna-Sophie Neher and bass-baritone Joel Allison. 

And  if you opt to learn and record the “anvil” instead of the vocal part, we have a percussion rendition of the “Anvil Chorus,” played on cast iron pans by Dorian Cox, our Program Manager for the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

The steps below are arranged sequentially, but we expect you to jump around, skip ahead, or move forward at your own pace, depending on your comfort level and musical experience. Get started and happy singing (or clanging)!   

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WHAT IS THE "ANVIL CHORUS"?

It’s one of the most famous choral pieces in opera, coming from the second act of Il Trovatore, an 1853 opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.

The chorus is a work song –– you’ll hear the sound of hammers pounding on anvils as blacksmiths make their wares –– and has the high energy and driving rhythm of a community working as one.

Have a listen to this version by conductor Herbert von Karajan and the orchestra & chorus of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

STEP 2: ORIENTATION

Watch the orientation video below, outlining the key steps in your Virtual Choir preparation: picking a part, learning the text, as well as warming up your voice prior to practicing and performing the piece. 


Documents mentioned in the video above.

We recommend printing these out and having them handy as you go through the instructional videos in the next steps.

Click here to get the printable sheet music.

Click here for the Italian text and English translation.

As Sandra mentions in the video above, you’ll need to pick one of two parts in the score to sing: either the high voice (yellow underline below) or the low voice (orange line below).


For a better idea of which one might be more comfortable for you, have a listen to the videos in Step 5A and 5B, where Anna-Sophie Neher sings the high voice part and Joel Allison sings the low voice part, both accompanied by pianist Rachael Kerr.

And if you don’t read sheet music, that’s no problem. In each instructional video that follows, we have embedded the score and text in the lower half of the video to synchronize with the music, kind of like a scrolling karaoke track. Instead of following the notation of musical notes, you can simply follow the text.

If you’re curious to learn more about reading a score, see Score Basics.

STEP 3: LEARN THE TEXT
The first thing to do when learning a new piece of music is to get really comfortable with the text. The “Anvil Chorus”— like a lot of opera — is in Italian. Even if you don’t speak Italian, you can learn to sing it. In fact, many professional singers perform in languages that they don’t speak.

In these videos, Sandra will help you master the text by speaking the Italian slowly and in rhythm. We recommend pausing the video after each line and repeating the words slowly to get used to them.



Once you’re comfortable with the Italian, move on to this video, where Sandra speaks the text at the speed with which we’ll sing the part.

STEP 4: VOCAL WARM-UP
Singers are athletes. And just like an athlete, you need a good warm-up routine for your vocal cords. 

Before you start singing full out in Step 5, follow these guided exercises from soprano Anna-Sophie Neher and bass-baritone Joel Allison –– artists of the COC’s Ensemble Studio training program.

STEP 5A: LEARN YOUR PART - HIGH VOICES
Watch below to learn your part with pianist Rachael Kerr. 

In the first half of the video, Rachael will play a slowed-down version of the accompaniment that will let you practice your part at a slower tempo. 

At the 2:56 mark of the video she is joined by soprano Anna-Sophie Neher, and they play the piece at full speed. Practice along following their lead.

STEP 5B: LEARN YOUR PART - LOW VOICES
Watch below to learn your part with pianist Rachael Kerr. 

In the first half of the video, Rachael will play a slowed-down version of the accompaniment that will let you practice your part at a slower tempo. 

At the 2:54 mark of the video she is joined by bass-baritone Joel Allison, and they play the piece at full speed. Practice along following their lead.

STEP 5C: LEARN YOUR PART - ANVIL
To learn your anvil part, first listen to the professional recording a few times to get yourself acquainted with the music and pay careful attention to the clanging of the anvils. (You can listen to the professional recording under What is the "Anvil Chorus"?)

Then, make two anvils, one high and one low. This can be achieved by using two different sized frying pans or pots –– one small and one large. Place the smallest to your left and the largest to your right. You'll also want to grab a "drumstick" –– you can use any kitchen utensil as a drumstick or mallet!

When you’re ready to try it yourself, listen to the track below and try to match the beat of the percussion part as closely as possible. Keep practicing until you've got that down! 


Please note: if you are submitting an anvil part, we ask that you do not sing out loud in your video submission (as infectious as this tune is!). This will help us synchronize the complete Virtual Choir performance video more seamlessly. Of course if you wish to sing, we would be delighted to receive a separate vocal submission from you!
STEP 6: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This is the final step before you’re ready to record! Practice a few times with this video, listening to it with headphones, until you feel comfortable performing alongside all the other parts –– you'll be recording your contribution with this as your guiding track. Think of Anna-Sophie and Joel as your fellow choir members, supporting your voice as you sing your part.

STEP 7: RECORDING YOUR PERFORMANCE
Once you’ve practiced and feel ready to go, it’s time to make your own recording. Here are some helpful tips for recording a high-quality video:

1. Set up your space: Find a quiet, well-lit place in your home. If there is a window behind you, draw the curtains so that you are not backlit. If possible you should be positioned to face the best source of light in the space.

2. Set up your recording device: Use whatever recording device you have available –– a smartphone, laptop or webcam.

3. Set up your music: You will need to listen to the performance track while you sing, the same way you would sing along with others in a choir. Open the video in Step 6: Putting It All Together, but don’t press play on the video yet. You may also want your sheet music or text printed out beside you. You’ll be listening to this video with headphones, so plug those in now and put them on.

4. Start recording: After hitting record on your phone or computer camera, take your time getting back to your spot. Take a deep breath.

5. Introduce yourself and what city/town you’re from in a clear speaking voice. 

6. Start the video from Step 6: Putting It All Together and listen with headphones.

7. When you hear Sandra and Rachael start counting, count with her out loud and clap at the same time. This will help us synchronize the videos.

8. It’s your time to shine! During the recording, just pretend like you are on stage: if you are not playing/singing, stay present, in the moment, all the way to the end. At the very end, when there is no more music, take a few seconds to absorb the silence (if all else fails, count to 5 in your head) before turning off the camera.

9. Stop the video recording and listen back all the way through.

When you're ready to send us your recording, you can move on to Step 8: Send Us Your Recording.

If you have any questions during this process, please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected].
STEP 8: SEND US YOUR RECORDING
Hooray! We're so excited to have you join our Virtual Choir. Follow the steps below to make sure your contribution makes it into the final community performance!

1. The filename of your video should include your full name and whether you are submitting a vocal track or an anvil track. (Example: John Smith Vocal.mp4) We can accept .MOV and .MP4 formats.

2. Go to WeTransfer (http://www.wetransfer.com) –– a free website you will use to email us your video. You do not need to register for an account to send us your recording.

3. Add your video file from your computer.

4. Under "Email To" type [email protected]

5. Under "Email From" type your email address.

6. Click "Transfer" to send us the file.

7. Provide us with your name(s) and consent.

Once we receive all submissions (deadline June 8, 2020), we'll start working on synchronizing all your contributions into one massive Virtual Choir performance.

Sign up for eOpera here to ensure that you get the final version of our virtual community performance delivered straight to your inbox once it is completed.

If you have any questions during this process, please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected] 

Thank you again for being a part of the COC's first-ever Virtual Choir.

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