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When their high school choir concert was canceled, technology helped them sing together anyway

Andrew Cuomo

A group that sings together, stays together — right?

Even though an annual choral festival in San Bernardino County, California was canceled this year because of coronavirus concerns, a group of high school choir singers wanted their community to hear their voice anyway.

On May 13, all 35 schools in the district shut their doors, Imee Perius, director of communications for Chino Valley Unified School District, told CNN. The Chino Valley Unified School District Choral Festival, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was one of the first events canceled following that announcement.

Perius said she saw videos flooding social media of Italian neighbors singing together to boost morale. She began thinking of a way to duplicate those moments in her community with students who were now forced to practice social distancing in their homes.

That’s when 19 Chino Hills High School chamber singers stepped up to record their individual parts to a song they’d practiced together for months, only this time, they had to sing alone and on camera. An editor working with the district took each student’s part and spent 36 hours stringing together this performance.

In the video, the singers fill the screen to deliver their portion of the classic “Over the Rainbow,” in the style of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. After a quick countdown, in full harmony, the virtual performance begins.

Camille Cortes, one of the singers in the video, told CNN she’s been in choir all four years of her high school career.

“It was really devastating for all of us knowing that we might not get the opportunity to sing together anymore,” she said. “Our choir is more of a family.”

The end product shows a video with 19 voices woven together. Cortes said it took her two hours to get the right video version done for her part.

Cortes said she was skeptical of how the song would turn out, but pleased when she saw the end result.

“The students have come together even though they are apart and contributed to this time in our history and I think they’re so happy about that,” Perius said. “This is the kind of silver lining that we all need right now.”

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