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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Singers in a virtual choir performance of “Healing Heart”

Voices of Hope: SDSU Director Orchestrates Virtual Choir

SDSU students are among 75 singers from around the world featured in a video conducted by director of choral studies Arian Khaefi.
By Georgia Burgé

“We miss singing together, we miss creating sound together, we miss expressing and creating art together.”

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic prompted San Diego State University to transition to virtual instruction in March, many performing arts students wondered how they would continue to collaborate with classmates if they could not do it in person.

Arian Khaefi, SDSU’s director of choral studies, decided distance shouldn’t have to halt the creation of music.

Khaefi, in collaboration with School of Music and Dance lecturer in piano Sonya Schumann, coordinated a group of 75 singers in a virtual choir performance of “Healing Heart” by Jacob Narverud. The multi-ethnic ensemble included SDSU choir students as well as singers from Germany, France, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and others across the United States.

The performance was created by layering clips of performers singing their parts individually. The video was mixed and mastered by Javier Piñón, an SDSU junior studying music recording technology and audio design, along with guidance from professional audio engineers including Chris Warren and Elizabeth Schumann. The project took just under a month to complete.

Khaefi said the project served multiple purposes: a capstone for SDSU choral students, an opportunity for singers from San Diego and abroad to sing again and a message of gratitude to healthcare professionals for their bravery in combating the virus.

“These past few months have been devastating for the performing arts, and this virus holds singers in a particularly insidious embrace,” Khaefi said. “We miss singing together, we miss creating sound together, we miss expressing and creating art together. We wanted to give people an opportunity to find their artistic voice through a choir, even if by virtual means.”

The lyrics of the piece are from a poem of the same name by Robert Bode, which speaks to human resilience in the face of adversity. The musical arrangement of the piece is one that requires cooperation between many voices to sing a single note. Khaefi chose this piece to symbolize that the group can carry the note together, but no one person could do it alone.

“In one particular passage, many singers need to coordinate their breathing efforts to sustain a single note for a long while,” Khaefi said. “We are in this extraordinary time together, not apart, and we will carry one another when any single person falters.”