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Virtual Choir In Greece Sings as One Despite Pandemic Restrictions

Virtual Choir
Operatic tenor Dimitris Lapousis, a member of the group “Beautiful World of Choir.” Courtesy Dimitris Lapousis

A virtual choir based out of Kavala, Greece, bringing together 80 different singers, recently released a remarkable work born out of the pandemic – a video compiled from 80 different renditions of the music, perfectly edited together to create one work of art.

The song they sung “Trehantira,” was a Greek folk song from the Cyclades Islands, with music and choral arrangements by Dimitris Minakakis under the direction of Roula Kokka.

The conductor of the choir “Όμορφος κόσμος της χορωδίας» (Beautiful World of Choir), who had the daunting task of coordinating each one of the singers’ parts, was Nikos Efthymiadis. The audiovisual editor, who also sings tenor in the group, was Dimitris Lapousis.

Beautiful World of Choir
Singers belonging to the “Beautiful World of Choir” group as they appeared in the final video — without any boxes around their images. Credit: Facebook/Beautiful World of Choir

As anyone who sings in public, whether at church or in another group, can attest, this past year, full of lockdowns and social distancing, was an extraordinarily difficult one. Faced with the loss of one of the greatest joys in their lives — on top of all the other challenges of the year — singers who normally would be able to share their voices with the world were completely silenced.

It was hard to imagine how anyone might even want to sing in such conditions. But this sad state of affairs didn’t daunt Lapousis and his friends, who took it upon themselves to organize a mass video with 80 different parts, all edited together into a seamless whole which sounds just as if all the members were singing side by side.

Lapousis, an artist, painter and opera singer, lives in the city of Larissa. He has been singing in the Mixed Choir of the City Conservatory of Larissa for the last fifteen years. When asked by Greek Reporter what he thought of his gigantic labor of love, he said he couldn’t be happier with the result.

“Dream came true at the right time”

“We are so proud that it has over 6,200 views in the first 3 days that we presented it!” he enthused, adding “everything began in the Facebook group “Beautiful World of Choir.”

“The owner and administrator, Roula (Theodora) Kokka, had this dream that came true at the right time,” he explains. “The lockdown situation postponed the rehearsals with our choir groups — but it wasn’t enough to postpone our lives or our creativity. Art always wins!” he says with evident satisfaction.

The members of the group had been asked earlier this year to take part in the ambitious project and they gamely took the technical challenge upon themselves during these most difficult times.

Composer Dimitris Minakakis arranged the well-known Greek folk song from the Cyclades Islands, Lapousis explains, before adding “he did amazing work, giving a new feeling to this famous song.”

Nikos Efthymiadis was the conductor for the virtual choir project and Eleftheria Tsiarta and Aggeliki Mavrou also assisted during the whole process, the tenor pointed out.

Group “weighs anchor,” ready for new virtual challenges

As Lapousis says, the members of the choir “have two common points, their love for the choral music, and the facebook group “Όμορφος κόσμος της χορωδίας» (Beautiful World of Choir), where this virtual project began.”

Despite the song’s lilting music, Lapousis explains, the lyrics of “Trehantira” speak about the hard work of the boat’s captain. The Trehantira is a Greek sailing vessel which was used for many years in the Greek islands.

After steamboats arrived on the scene, like everywhere else in the world, the graceful trehantiras became more and more obsolete. Lapousis relates “With this song, the captain says “I‘m going to sell my trehantira, because there is not enough money to feed our children… I’ve been sailing whole days and nights, in foreign lands. Oh my God, what a pity… let‘s return to our homeland.”

The tenor adds “The sound “evira,” or “vira,” that is repeated in each stanza, is a Greek Navy order meaning “weigh anchor,” or “let’s sail on to our next destination.”

Asked by Greek Reporter just how this ambitious project came to be, Lapousis explains “We had less than two months, from the first announcement to get prepared, to listen to and learn our tracks, and then to make our videos, in our own homes.

“We worked together, dreaming of the final project. We sang our parts, we sent our videos, and then we had to wait; no one could imagine the final sound or the final result.

“We broke the screens”

No one except me,” Lapousis adds, because “I had the opportunity and the honor to do the audiovisual editing! From the first video I acquired in my email, I started working on it, and then everything went down its own road.”

Asked about the many difficulties which must have presented themselves in such a technical project, Lapousis replies “First of all we had to make the whole process easier, just to encourage all the participants. Almost everyone was scared of the technology, with a little bit of skepticism about the final project — how can we make a choir from nothing?

“And that was absolutely right!” he adds with great good humor.

“The choral world is a real community, and digital technology isn’t able to replace our live concerts,” Lapousis states. “But there is a question; why do we have all these tools after all?”

For Lapousis and the others who made “Trehantira” a reality, it was just a matter, as he says, of forging ahead. He told the choir members “Forget the lockdown problems that emerged last year, just sing again, and let the technology serve the purpose, our connection!”

In the end, the tenor adds with great satisfaction, “Eighty choristers, opera singers and conductors from Greece, Cyprus, Germany and other countries of the world followed our advice and finally succeeded in taking part!”

Lapousis admits that the audiovisual editing process was difficult. “There were so many details in the song and in the video too that I had to have in mind. For example, the ‘musical waves’ of the voices which repeat the main melody, and the movements of the graphics from the beginning,” posed a challenge, he states.

“To be reborn through the ashes”

Hopefully, all this positive energy I took and all these amazing people I met inspired me and gave me the power to do my best,” he notes.

Lapousis then gets to the real heart of the singing experience when he explains “The statement ‘We are not screens’ guided my work, and all the members supported it as well.

“During the lockdown, we have been used to see virtual choirs singing in little screens, we have been used to having all these digital borders,” he relates. “But we are still humans, choristers, musicians and conductors — and we need to meet each other again, to join our groups, to meet other choirs, to sing as one again!

“And we almost did it, we ‘broke’ the screens and we held in one group!” Lapousis says in exultation.

And certainly, the visual of all the singers raising their voices together in Trehantira is unique, without the boxes around each singer. The choristers of The Beautiful World of Choir truly do look as if they are part of a heavily choir, singing in the clouds.

“As you can see,” the tenor says, “the members of the choir appeared as they would be placed on a real concert stage.

“My wish for this project is to ‘sail’ through the internet wherever Greek people live all over the world, and reconnect them as one, as these 80 people connected with their voices and their souls, while the blue and the white remind us of the homeland’s heart and spirit.

“Watching a choir, during the last pandemic year, was a reminder of freedom and creativity,” he notes.

“That was why we decided to create this virtual choir, ‘breaking’ the screens and singing as one again, one beside the other!” Lapousis states, before adding “Making a wish to meet again, to smile again, to take our place over the stage, to be reborn through our ashes in the whole choral world!”

The group “Beautiful World of Choir” presented the Greek folk song “Trehantira” with music and choral arrangements by Dimitris Minakakis. The project manager was Roula Kokka and the conductor was Nikos Efthymiadis. The audiovisual editing for the recording was by Dimitris Lapousis.

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