Few can forget the Italians perched on windowsills serenading one another while quarantined with the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is with that same spirit of resilience that the CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Chorus is inviting the campus and the community to audition for its first ever virtual chorus.

“Our voices must sing and the song must endure and no pandemic can stop that,” said Dean Butler, CSUCI alumnus, choir member and Channel Islands Choral Association (CICA) president. “Music throughout history has been the universal expression of healing, love, hope and peace.”

Campus and community members are welcome to audition for the chorus, which is set to perform a winter concert, also virtually, the first week of December. All vocal ranges and all ages 18 and up are welcome.

The virtual winter choir performance is entitled “Celebrate Women Composers in Choral Music.” CSUCI Chorus Artistic Director KuanFen Liu chose this theme because part of her mission is to bring awareness to artistic expression that is not necessarily in the mainstream. Less than two percent of work performed by major orchestras and choruses is from female composers, she said.

“I always want to use performing arts and music as a tool, as a language, to express issues that concern us all,” said Liu, who holds a doctorate in Musical Arts. “Inequality is one of those concerns, and female composers are not being appreciated enough. Their works have not been performed enough.

The music Liu chose inspires her, she said, such as this short passage from composer Andrea Ramsey, Ph.D., who adapted the piece from the writings of Helen Keller.

“The light in my darkness, the voice in my silence.

I feel the flames of eternity in my soul”—

Liu believed a spark of hope was needed when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the CSUCI Spring Choral Spectacular just two weeks before its scheduled April performances. It was a big disappointment for the 60-person choir and the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra set to perform with them.

“Everybody was pretty let down by the cancellation of the Spring Spectacular,” Liu said. “So we put our heads together. We know it will be challenging to hold virtual rehearsals, but we are determined to make it work.”

Rehearsals will be weekly—75 minutes long—conducted online in the Virtual Choir Room (VCR) set up by Arts Laureate, an elite recording team who sets up virtual performances for groups such as the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and NPR’s JazzSet at the Kennedy Center.

Zoom will be used for online rehearsals, which will always begin with a chat from Liu about the meaning and purposes of the music the choir will be rehearsing. Following the chat, singers will be assigned to virtual breakout rooms to work with choral assistants, who will use virtual instruction tracks.

“We will always close with a chat focused on the singers’ needs and concerns,” Liu said. “This will be a special time of sharing and connecting with each other.”

Once the choir has mastered the six musical selections to be performed in the concert, each singer will video record his or her part to pre-recorded musical accompaniment, then submit it online.

The videos are then edited together into one master performance video, which will be live-streamed in early December.

CSUCI students can join the choir by signing up for the class named PAMU 307. Liu encourages CSUCI staff and faculty to join, too, to unite even more campus voices with community voices.

“CICA is committed to making music in innovative ways with our laptops, our tablets and our smartphones,” Butler said. “Social-emotional connection of our members during these long days of social distancing is our top priority. Keeping choral singing alive in a safe way is our way of doing that.”

To schedule a virtual audition with Liu, email downbeatplus@gmail.com