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‘Sing Out Strong’ — Activist opera company takes its world premiere to Zoom

This year, “Sing Out Strong: DeColonized Voices” will debut its world premiere via Zoom on May 13 at 8 pm.

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Sing Out Strong’ — Activist opera company takes its world premiere to Zoom
Last year’s “Sing Out Strong” concert focused on immigrant experiences. PHOTO: Courtesy of White Snake Projects

Every year the activist opera company White Snake Projects performs a community concert series called “Sing Out Strong” based on a theme from its mainstage opera performance. This year, “Sing Out Strong: DeColonized Voices” will debut its world premiere via Zoom on May 13 at 8 pm.

“Our writers and composers have worked so hard to make these songs. So rather than flat-out saying we have to cancel, we pivoted and decided that we would do a virtual world premiere on Zoom,” says Cerise Jacobs, co-founder and executive producer of the company.

Last year’s “Sing Out Strong” concert focused on immigrant experiences. PHOTO: Courtesy of White Snake Projects

Last year’s “Sing Out Strong” concert focused on immigrant experiences. PHOTO: Courtesy of White Snake Projects

The songs for “Sing Out Strong: DeColonized Voices” were created in tandem by local artists inspired by the mainstage performance “Cosmic Cowboy,” which is tentatively scheduled for the fall. The lyrics were written by community members coming from experiences with colonization, many of them new immigrants to the United States. From there, local composers created melodies inspired by the lyrics. This creation process is typical to earlier works in the “Sing Out Strong” series, but adapting the concert to a virtual format proved more complicated than expected.

“We could have streamed it on a platform that is made for streaming music … but the problem with those platforms is that the audience is not connected,” says Jacobs. “Whereas if you went to a platform like Zoom, you can actually see your fellow audience members and you can participate the way you would in a real concert. We’ll unmute everyone at the end of each song and people can clap and cheer.”

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This audience interaction was crucial to Jacobs’ vision. To make it happen, the pianist and cellist each pre-recorded their tracks by video. The songs were polished by a sound engineer and videographer to create one consistent file of the two musicians performing with both visual and audio. On the day of the concert, the vocalist will share her screen so audience members can view and hear her and the musicians, then she will perform live with their recorded compositions. Each writer and composer will introduce their songs and discuss their experiences.

For security reasons, White Snake Projects requests that attendees RSVP by e-mail (info@whitesnakeprojects.org). Then the Zoom conference link will be sent to them.

Despite the hard work that went into adapting the performance, Jacobs says events like these are essential during the crisis.

“While I think it’s wonderful to have all the archival materials being streamed, we cannot come to a standstill,” she says. “We have to continue to host events, we have to continue to make live art now and we have to try to connect the audience not just to the art but to each other. That’s part of the joy.”

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