COVID-19 hitting full force in the middle of this past spring semester forced TCNJ to put all activities and events on hold. One of those events included Arthur Honegger’s King David; A Symphonic Psalm.
The project, a collaboration between Professor of English Glenn Steinberg’s The Bible as Literature course and Associate Professor of Music John Leonard’s Chorale course, involved a student-informed performance of Arthur Honegger’s King David. For the performance, Steinberg’s students put together the concert program and wrote the extensive notes that are included in it and Leonard’s students performed movements of the musical score.
The King David Collaboration Across Boundaries Project was set to be performed on March 28 in the Mayo Concert Hall, pre-COVID-19. However, due to the pandemic, the performance was moved online where the students performed two movements virtually instead of the entire 24 movements.
The students of both classes were joined together and then divided into 12 groups. Each group researched and reflected on either a section of King David or a specific area of background information about the piece. The Literature students focused primarily on the historical and interpretive context of the texts, while the Chorale students focused on the historical, compositional, and musical interpretation of the texts.
The performance featured Leonard as the conductor, and students Cassie Ackerman, Brianna Carson and Emily Obenauer as sopranos; Monica Alverado, Lauranne Holgado and Maura McFadden as mezzo-sopranos; and Joseph Rippert as a tenor. Steinberg narrated the performance.
“Dr. Steinberg suggested we do a joint project together with our classes and we arrived at King David because it is a great piece that would work well as a topic/project for both his class (Bible as Lit) and my course, Chorale,” Leonard said.
Leonard said the virtual performances were used “… to learn how to create virtual performances that led to the ones created for Commencement.”
The project was part of TCNJ’s Collaboration Across Boundaries (CAB) Model.
“The hypothesis of the CAB model is that immersing students in interdisciplinary collaborative courses, where students in these courses work together, and preferably with community partners, to address community-identified issues, will result in deeper learning for all of the students involved,” explained Professor of Computer Science Monisha Pulimood, who is the current Barbara Meyers Pelson Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement.
In this role, Pulimood fosters faculty-student collaboration across disciplines, and with community partners, where applicable through the Collaboration Across Boundaries (CAB) Model.
In the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters, Pulimood’s Pelson award supported workshops designed to help faculty adapt their courses to the CAB model
“In June 2019, my colleagues Professor Diane Bates [Sociology and Anthropology], Professor Kim Pearson [Journalism and Professional Writing] and I offered a workshop, funded by the Pelson award, for TCNJ faculty to introduce them to the CAB model,” Pulimood said. “One outcome of that workshop is that Professor Glenn Steinberg and Professor John Leonard decided to have their classes collaborate in Spring 2020.”
The Pelson award was also able to support some of the expenses associated with the CAB courses including the King David planned performance, Pulimood said.
“I think the performance is an awesome outcome and showcase for the CAB model,” Pulimood said.
The performance also had help with the virtual production from Adina Weiss, a senior interactive multimedia major, who is pursuing minors in music and music technology.
“Dr. Leonard reached out to me that first week of online classes saying he wanted to try and do a virtual choir for King David,” Weiss said. “He asked me about different audio and video softwares and if I was willing to help with this project.”
Weiss started by synching the piano soundtrack to Leonard’s conducting which allowed for the Chorale students to play the video on one device while recording their parts using another device.
Weiss edited each chorale member’s video to sync together and then created the layout and background of the video.
“I decided to go with Mayo Concert Hall, since that’s where the performance was supposed to be,” Weiss said. “I decided to try and make it 3D instead of just a flat background. I actually used the same picture three times with one flat and the other two angled out.”
After editing the students’ videos and synching them with the piano music and conductor, Weiss added cameras to pan back and forth for movement, and then started on the audio. After mixing it to balance the individual students’ voices and fixing some rough cuts, she added the audio to the final vidoe and the virtual performance was complete.
“While a live performance of King David in its entirety would have been really cool, I think that this version of the performance was still really successful,” Weiss said. “We really made the best of the situation at hand and emerged with a polished, professional product.”
-Gabriella Lucci ‘20