GMIT’s Virtual Choir

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Award-winning Galway Musical Director Sean Rowland has produced an enthralling video of GMIT’s virtual choir singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” after single-handedly editing over 80 individual videos of students and staff singing their sections (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass) and merging their voices into one.

About GMIT’s Virtual Choir

Normal choir practice came to a halt on 12 March when the Government announced college closures. Within days choir master Sean and colleague Anita Mahony had put out a call seeking interest in continuing online, using platforms such as Zoom, Google Drive, YouTube and WeTransfer. Over 100 students and staff from all five campuses immediately signed up including alumni, international students and new members, with 80 eventually submitting videos to Sean. Even family members and pets got involved in the process.

One of the first to sign up was GMIT’s new President, Dr Orla Flynn. This was one of Orla’s first opportunities to interact with staff and students having taken up her new position after the Covid-19 restrictions had closed the Institute. “As a newcomer to GMIT, I didn’t get a chance to get out and meet staff and students due to the closure, so the choir has given me a brilliant opportunity to become part of the GMIT community,” she says. “Virtually or otherwise, there is something magical about coming together to sing. Sean put in huge effort to encourage participation, and we are very grateful.”

Sean Rowland says: “I think it’s incredibly brave of all the individuals to step out of their comfort zone and take part in a virtual choir. It takes courage to expose one’s voice even if it is only for my ears initially and I think it has come together wonderfully. There is no substitute for a live performance and the physical feeling we get from singing in a choir, however what The GMIT Virtual Choir has achieved here is astonishing. It was especially uplifting to see everyone’s smiling faces again and to welcome participants from all five of the GMIT campuses.”

Staying Busy in a Crisis

Initially, Sean spent a good bit of time upskilling and upgrading the equipment to be able to direct the GMIT’s Virtual Choir, produce a video and include the visuals and voices of all participants. He hosted the online tutorials using the video sharing platform Zoom and staff and students connected in using their pc, tablet or phone.

“The response to this entire experience has been overwhelmingly positive”, says Anita Mahony, Chairperson of both GMIT Voices and Healthy Campus: “Sean’s virtual choir is having a really positive impact on everyone’s mental health during these difficult and worrying times. It has been amazing to see the reaction and interaction at our Zoom sessions and also on social media. Everyone is clearly enjoying the experience.”

“Sean has completed a mammoth task – over 80 hours of post-production and editing which is usually done by a team of people.  We are so grateful for all the passion he brings to this virtual choir, his talent and skill, and his energy and enthusiasm which are so contagious”.

A Positive Online Response

Dr Rick Officer, VP Research & Innovation, says: “Re-joining the GMIT choir online has really lifted the spirits of all involved. Seeing everyone’s faces again has been terrific, but the banter during rehearsals is even better. Huge thanks to Sean Rowland for the hard work behind the scenes, and to Anita Mahony who tries to manage us.”

Emma McDonald, final year student, says: “For many of us students this was our last semester in the choir. Undoubtedly being a member leaves us with fond memories for the rest of our lives. We never expected that our practice in March would be the last one on campus. Then came the virtual choir, a chance to all come together, near and far, to do what we enjoy most – sing. This experience has been amazing. A big thank you to Sean for all his hard work and dedication. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”

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Gemma is a nomadic writer, filmmaker, & journalist.
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