With some help from Silicon Valley, we may be on our way to overcoming the choral field’s most persistent hurdle during the pandemic—latency from internet connections that prevents choruses from truly being able to hear each other and sing together synchronously online. Software entrepreneur Mike Dickey, a parent of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus of San Mateo, California, worked with Stanford University researchers to develop a technology platform called JackTrip Virtual Studio that makes real-time remote singing possible with common internet connections. The setup, successfully tested by the chorus, requires a small device that costs about $150 for each singer and a free software program.
“It’s working for hundreds of people,” says Dickey, noting that slower internet connections and distances greater than 600 miles still pose problems. “It’s not the final solution, at least not yet.” He is working to expand the platform’s service beyond the five North American metropolitan areas where it is currently available.
The technology addresses only the latency of audio transmission; Virtual Studio does not eliminate the lag in video, meaning that singers still can’t rely on a conductor’s on-screen gestures in order to keep time. Ragazzi’s artistic and executive director Kent Jue observes that this drawback has served to sharpen the listening skills of his choristers, and he says the experience is still absolutely enjoyable: “It was pretty glorious to see the boys’ faces light up after hearing their buddies sing together for the first time in six months.”
Ragazzi Debuts Its First Livestreamed Concert
On December 13, Ragazzi Boys Chorus will present its first livestreamed concert using the Virtual Studio technology to sing together remotely in real time:
Event: Beyond the Stars
Date: Sun, Dec 13, 2020 at 4 pm Pacific
In October, Chorus America interviewed Jue and Dickey for the inaugural episode of ChorTechs, our new video series exploring innovation and creative uses of technology in the choral field amid the COVID-19 pandemic.