Farmington Hills music teacher brings virtual choir together

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed Michigan schools on March 16, Farmington Hills resident Ronald Weiler couldn’t work on stage with his Detroit Country Day concert choir.

But they all still made music together.

The 9th-12th grade students are featured in a “virtual choir” video that has in less than a week picked up more than 8,500 views. We asked Weiler how the project came together:

Where did you get the idea for the video?

I was first inspired by a virtual choir done by composer Eric Whitacre in 2010 for one of his pieces “Lux Aurumque” that my students have sung over the years. As a bit of a technology nerd, I was fascinated by this concept and always knew I would try this someday.

How did you make it happen?

Each year our annual school-wide arts festival “Celebrate the Arts” features a different “area” of our numerous arts programs as the “Grand Finale.” This was to be the year featuring the choral program, and I had several things in the works to make our year special. The showing of this video was one of them, along with a world premiere of a brand new piece of choral music we commissioned from the same composer as “O Love”. The mechanics of producing the video are surprisingly involved, with multiple professional level pieces of software on my end, but fairly simple for the kids. They recorded their videos on a wide variety of commonly available devices.

Why did you choose that particular song?

This was the first piece of music that I found by composer Elaine Hagenberg a few years ago, and my choir performed it in 2018. She was to have visited our school the week of March 15, culminating in the world premiere concert on March 22. I chose this as it was the piece of hers I had the most familiarity with. Since the schools have shut down, the message of the song seemed just a perfect message of love and joy, and I was so pleased that this was the piece we had chosen to record.

What’s been the reaction to the video?

I’ve never had a video go anything close to viral before! I’m so grateful to Elaine for allowing us to share this video publicly. Since so many performance opportunities are suddenly not happening for the choir, especially for our seniors, I’m thrilled that this has given them something to be excited about from school. It’s not the same, but it’s still something. I’m incredibly proud of my Concert Choir, and they deserve the positive response they are getting!

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