A warm welcome to Virtual Vienna


Choral holiday company Run By Singers has a regular gig in the Austrian capital at this time of year, to sing Mozart’s Requiem at precisely the hour of the composer’s death in the middle of the night on 5th December. That was impossible this year due to the restrictions – both in terms of travel and group singing – imposed by the pandemic, so they organised an online project, Virtual Vienna, instead. This really captured the imagination of RBS stalwarts and newcomers alike, with over 1,000 participants, including myself.

RBS founders Nick Couchman and Jane Osgathorp on a previous Vienna trip

An idea of rehearsals and recording can be gleaned from my previous blog but now we come to performance day. Yes, day instead of midnight – evening for us in the UK or other parts of Europe, although perhaps lunchtime for friends across the Atlantic or even tomorrow’s breakfast time down under. In the pre-concert chat forum, excitement mounted with comments scrolling by prestissimo as singers from all over said hello to each other – old friendships reinforced and the beginnings of new ones forged.

Matt Finch with Karlskirche interior

Another change from actual Vienna, by all accounts, was that singing from the comfort of your own home was considerably warmer than in the beautiful but extremely chilly Karlskirche. Matt Finch’s green screen backdrop took us there in spirit, though, as did a compilation of atmospheric photos of the city that graced our gadgets’ screens during the solos while we didn’t have to watch the conductor. It’s a somewhat surreal experience singing along knowing that any sound you’re making there and then can’t be heard by the worldwide choir or virtual audience, and yet due to the recordings we’d submitted there was satisfaction in having contributed to the collective endeavour. Since Matt’s beat and directions had been so clear during online rehearsals, and also thanks to the skill of a team of sound engineers, the end result really did sound like a choir working together. And a handy by-product of doing the whole caboodle online is that it can be experienced again and again! Click here for audience access.

Soloists Danni O’Neill, Oscar Golden Lee, Laura Baldwin and Tom Herring

It was also a joy to finally experience the entire piece seamlessly, including the beautifully-sung solos, and all to the accompaniment of a baroque orchestra. In defiance of these dark times the distanced parts came together through the power of technology to create a real sparkle and lift the spirits. Here’s to the hope of singing together in person before too long. If you fancy it, why not join the mailing list?

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