WEST WARWICK — They may be apart, but in a performance uploaded to YouTube last week, their voices blend as if there were no distance between them.
“It really brought tears to my eyes,” Olivia Lancellotta, a senior at West Warwick High School, recalled seeing her concert chorale’s virtual rendition of Eric Whitacre’s “The Seal Lullaby” for the first time. “I miss everyone so much, and I was just so proud of all of us.”
Uploaded Thursday using the hashtag #wwhswizardpride, the video is a mosaic of individual recordings seamlessly layered to create a sound that rivals live music.
The West Warwick High School Concert Chorale had planned to perform the lullaby on March 26 during an adjudicated festival at Ponaganset High School. The singers had been working for months on three pieces for the festival, which ended up canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt bad not hearing them get the chance to do it,” Richard Marchetti, choral director at West Warwick High School, said Saturday. “It’s just so much hard work that was never going to get seen.”
Marchetti was determined not to let those efforts be for nothing, however.
“I just missed hearing their voices together,” he said of the impetus behind compiling the virtual performance. “This was just my attempt to get them to sing together and to honor their hard work.”
The chorus from West Warwick High School last year earned the highest possible rating during the same festival, hosted by the Rhode Island American Choral Directors Association. And this year, having put months into rehearsing each song, Marchetti said he’d expected his students would perform just as well.
“We know how much work we put in,” Jillian Marandola said Saturday. “So when we found out the event was canceled, it really just crushed us. We put so much time and effort into it, and we really do care.”
For Lancellotta, Marandola and the other seniors who have devoted so much of their high school careers to music, Marchetti said it’s been “devastating” to have to miss some of their last opportunities to perform together.
“It’s really crushing to all the seniors to not be able to spend their last few months together,” Marandola added.
In addition to missing the festival, the students also on Friday had to miss Wizard Sound, the school’s annual singing competition. The high school’s spring cabaret and its jazz night, both of which had been scheduled to happen at the end of this month, will both be canceled. And performances scheduled for May, Marchetti said, will likely also not happen.
“Even if we go back to school, which I don’t anticipate, we’re not going to be prepared,” Marchetti said.
Rehearsing new songs remotely would be challenging, Marchetti added. While distance learning is going well, he said, factors like internet speed make it difficult to replicate choir online.
“It’s seriously heartbreaking,” said Lancellotta, who’s been involved in West Warwick’s music programs for years. “These are things that we’ve looked forward to since we were in kindergarten.”
Senior Isabel Losier expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s really sad, because I’ve been looking forward to these events for a long time,” Losier said Saturday. “It hurts a lot. I hope things get figured out and we’re able to have a few last moments together.”
With eyes closed and volume up, it’s tough to tell that each voice in the students’ “The Seal Lullaby” rendition was recorded from a different location. Still, compiling the performance was a lot more difficult than Marchetti had anticipated.
To bring it to fruition, Marchetti first sent each student the song’s backbeat track and asked that the singers listen to it in one ear while recording themselves singing their individual parts. They then sent the clips back to Marchetti, who used iMovie to edit them together.
Working in between his virtual classwork, Marchetti completed the project in just over a week. One of the hardest parts of making the video, he said, was lining up every file to ensure they all started at the same time.
Losier said she was shocked when she heard the finished piece.
“I did not think that was possible,” she said.
Marandola called the experience “surreal.”
“We’re used to him playing the piano and there being other students,” she said. “It’s kind of like a movie — you don’t think this is ever going to happen until it does.”
To be able to see and hear everyone together — even if it was only on screen — was an emotional experience for Marandola, who added that of all of her classes, honors concert chorale had been the one she most looked forward to each day.
“To see everybody together for one last time, it really meant a lot,” she said.
Having received so much positive feedback, Marchetti said he may at some point ask his students to contribute to another similar performance of one of the other songs they’d prepared for the festival.
“It’s brought a lot of joy to people,” Marchetti added. “Even in this crazy, dark time, it does warm the heart a little bit.”
And that, the performers added, is exactly what they’d hoped would happen.
“I hope that this brings some joy,” Lancellotta said. “A lot of people are going through hard times, with jobs being lost or sickness, so I hope this can bring a light to people’s days.”
Marandola echoed that.
“I hope people do give it a listen,” she said. “We just hope this raises everyone’s spirits during this time.”
West Warwick High School’s performance of “The Seal Lullaby” can be viewed by visiting westwarwickpublicschools.com.